New Licencing Policies offer New Opportunities!

It’s almost a year since Natural England introduced their New Licencing Policies with regards to Protected Species in the UK and we are already seeing these deliver great results for both our clients and our environment.

New Licencing Policy 1 (NLP1) is perhaps the most exciting and progressive of these changes. The wording of the NLP1 is as follows:

“Defra considers that compensation for EPS impacts can be delivered without the need to relocate or exclude populations, where: exclusion or relocation measures are not necessary to maintain the conservation status of the local population; the avoid-mitigate-compensate hierarchy is followed; and compensation provides greater benefits to the local population than would exclusion and/or relocation.”

 LSC have worked with one of our key clients to successfully obtain two licences using NLP1 already, and we are currently working on four more through consultation with Natural England over the winter period.

The big gain for the environment, is that the funds which would traditionally be used for translocation of individual newts can instead be diverted into real long-term habitat enhancements for the newts and for local biodiversity in general.

The big gain we have seen for our clients is the scope to avoid the long delays which can arise through the prescriptive translocation requirements traditionally associated with a great crested newt licence. One of our key clients received Planning Permission for their scheme in early-September of this year. Under the traditional licencing model, the translocation exercise and seasonal constraints would have delayed their scheme commencement until April/May of next year at the earliest. With the NLP1 application which LSC secured, they are commencing construction works in November and will be well on their way to completion by next summer. The newt population in turn will gain new terrestrial habitats, refugia and hibernacula which will support the maintenance and growth of the colony in the future.

LSC have a proven track record with successfully securing the new NLP1 licences for our clients, and we are expanding our work in this new and exciting field of licencing. If you would like to explore how NLP1 might help get your development moving, whilst providing a real and long-lasting benefit to biodiversity, why not get in touch with LSC to discuss your scheme!

great crested newt translocation
Tree Climb and Inspect surveys for bats – why are we such fans?

LSC have three CS38 qualified ecologists who also hold Natural England bat licences which permit them to climb trees and inspect potential roost features (PRFs) for bats. We have been undertaking these surveys for over five years and have recorded inspections of thousands of trees in this timeframe. The traditional approach for surveying trees for bats is to conduct dusk and dawn emergence/re-entry surveys from the ground but ,whilst this still has its place, we think that the climb and inspect option has many advantages. Here are just a few:

Speed

Trees come in all shapes and sizes and inspecting a mature oak with many features can take half a day or more. On the other hand, we have climbed and comprehensively inspected 25 semi-mature trees in a single day before, but 8-10 trees a day is a good average to work on. Surveys of 16x trees would take a team of 2 surveyors a week of dusk/dawn surveys to assess, so it’s easy to see that deploying a pair of climbers to inspect these in two days would be much more efficient.

Understanding

An inspection of a PRF at height allows the surveyor to fully understand a feature. Does it extend upwards, is it clean or dirty, does it even provide a roosting opportunity at all? From the ground, a good surveyor has to be precautionary and assume that an apparent feature might be a PRF – however from an aerial inspection, we frequently confirm that 50% or more of apparent PRF’s are in fact unsuitable for bats and can be ruled out. Conversely when the feature really is good with high potential for bats, we can identify this and grade the PRF accordingly.

Efficiency

When we get to a feature, we would search not only for live bats in residence, but for evidence which suggests they have been there recently. This includes a search for bat droppings, or for other tell-tale signs of recent occupation such as smoothing of the cavity. An aerial inspection can identify conclusive evidence which spans several nights, compared with the individual snapshot of the emergence survey which can only tell you if a bat was in residence on that occasion.

Knowledge

The climber who has inspected hundreds of PRF’s at height has a much better idea of how a feature viewed from the ground might look when they’re in up the tree. Climbing is a great opportunity to check and correct your assumptions and bring this knowledge to the next assessment you undertake. Our climbers have developed this experience over a wide range of projects and can use the knowledge to provide you with an expert ground-level assessment as well as a confident and efficient aerial inspection service.

 

We work extensively throughout the Midlands and the rest of the UK. In August of this year, our climbers have completed inspections in Warwickshire, Essex, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. For more information on our aerial inspection services, follow this link!

Oak woodland tree climb.jpg
Great Crested Newt Surveys in 2017

Landscape Science Consultancy have had a busy newt season this year - we have conducted Phase 2 presence/absence surveys on more than 30 ponds at sites across Cambridgeshire, Staffordshire, Bedfordshire and Warwickshire as well as closer to home in Melton Mowbray.

Alongside the presence/absence surveys to inform new development proposals, we have also been undertaking monitoring surveys in accordance with the European Protected Species Mitigation Licences (EPSML) we had obtained on behalf of our clients at two previous sites. In both cases, the populations were found to be doing well, and making use of the new receptor site ponds we had designed.

LSC provide comprehensive ecology services, from the beginning to the end of a project. This begins with a scoping survey where we may identify the potential for great crested newts on a development site, through to the Phase 2 surveys which assess whether a population is present. We can then apply for an EPSML (newt licence) to permit works to go ahead, design and develop receptor sites and mitigation ponds, undertake newt translocation, provide ecological supervision during site clearance and then monitor the success of the works.

For more information on our great crested newt survey services, check out our dedicated webpage here!

 

 

James Faulconbridge
Bat Licence and Supervision of works for a Barn Conversion in Londonthorpe

LSC were approached by Vale Garden Houses in 2016 to undertake building inspections on a barn in Londonthorpe, just outside Grantham.

Our surveys identified a brown long-eared roost within the barn and we subsequently undertook further dusk and dawn activity surveys to establish how the bats were accessing and using the barn in accordance with Best Practise Guidelines.

Once the surveys were complete, LSC worked with the client and their architects to design a bat loft and access features which would create a dedicated roost space within the renovated barn, without compromising the living space and aesthetics of the final layout.

Using our survey baseline and proposed mitigation solution, LSC successfully obtained an European Protected Species Mitigation Licence (EPSML) from Natural England following receipt of Planning Permission from South Kesteven LPA.

In April 2017, one of our Licensed Bat Workers attended site to supervise the roof strip to accord with the licence conditions and ensure that no bats were present before works commenced. Before proceeding with the roof strip, we climbed an adjacent beech tree to install two bat boxes to provide a safe place to translocate any bats we encountered, and ensure provision of roosting opportunities whilst building works go ahead. Once the bat loft is completed, these boxes will stay in place as enhancement measures for the local bat populations.

We will be providing ongoing support and supervision for the installation of the bat roost features through summer 2017, and will subsequently monitor its use to determine the success of the mitigation features.

James Faulconbridge
Multi-phase residential development in Bedfordshire

Landscape Science Consultancy were commissioned to undertake Phase 1 Habitat and Preliminary Protected Species surveys at an area of land to the north of Houghton Regis near Dunstable in 2011. The initial survey area covered approximately 350ha with habitats including a disused chalk quarry, arable fields, woodland and scrub, grassland and extensive hedgerows and watercourses. The proposed scheme – Houghton Regis North 2 (HRN2) – included residential development along with a school and village centre, extensive amenity and sports provision as well as wildlife habitat, green corridors, landscape features and recreational routes.

Following the production of an initial Ecology Report to inform the client, LSC proceeded to undertake Phase 2 surveys for protected species the following season. This included surveys for bats, badgers, reptiles, great crested newts, breeding birds, wintering birds, dormice and scarce arable plants. A badger Bait Marking survey was undertaken to understand how badgers utilised the site in order to be able to fully assess the potential impacts of the proposals. These surveys were undertaken early in the development of the scheme to inform avoidance and design-phase measures to minimise impacts to ecological receptors. This also ensured that the client had a robust baseline data to support their Planning Application.

As a result of the surveys, LSC recorded bat roosts in trees, great crested newt breeding ponds, two separate badger territories, a previously unrecorded dormouse population and an assemblage of farmland bird species. Early identification of these species allowed their site use and distribution to be factored into the scheme. This included designing landscape buffers and connective corridors around badger setts and retaining trees with bat roost potential. Surveys of onsite habitats also allowed enhancement opportunities to be identified, such as restoring a plantation poplar woodland to a semi-natural character to encourage the ancient woodland indicator species in the ground flora to develop.

LSC produced a comprehensive Ecology Chapter for the Environmental Statement submitted in support of the project in early 2015. Through extensive input to the design phase and landscaping, as well as meetings and discussion with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) Ecologist, the Outline Planning Permission was granted with no objections raised with regards to Ecology.

LSC’s involvement with the project has continued into 2017 with the production of Discharge of Condition documents to permit Advanced Infrastucture Works to commence later this year. These works will put in place the roads, services and water management features required to allow the individual plots to be sold on to developers to take forward to completion.

Ecological support for Jaguar Land Rover

LSC was commissioned by Jaguar Land Rover to provide ecological support to the multi-million pound re-development of their main Engineering Centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire. This included Phase 1 habitat and Protected Species surveys for a range of different species including great crested newts, reptiles, bats, badgers, breeding birds and invertebrates. It was identified at an early stage that the key ecological consideration on the site was the population of great crested newts which breed in the onsite ponds and make use of the terrestrial habitats around them.

Having worked with Jaguar Land Rover for a number of years, LSC had a good background knowledge of the ponds, populations and habitats on site, but the complexity of the scheme meant that a high level of confidence was required from the design-stage upwards to ensure that the final scheme would progress smoothly and in compliance with Best Practice. LSC worked alongside planners, architects and the highly skilled in-house team at Jaguar Land Rover to develop the proposals at the Design Stage. Consultation with Natural England through the Discretionary Advice Service (DAS) allowed the design to be developed to minimise impacts where possible, mitigate them where impacts were unavoidable, and develop long-term enhancement for the population through the creation of new habitat.

LSC successfully sought a multi-phase Masterplan Licence from Natural England and designed and oversaw the construction of a receptor site which was specifically targeted to the requirements of great crested newts, whilst also providing habitat for other key species such as reptiles as well as rare bees and butterflies. The habitat creation included new ponds with native aquatic planting, the development of new marshy grassland and scrapes, hibernacula and refugia piles for herpetofauna, and butterfly banks which have been planted up with the larval food plants of local priority species.

The first phase of the Masterplan Licence is now completed and construction works are going ahead. The translocation works for the second phase are being undertaken by LSC into spring 2017 with a view to allowing construction works to commence in early-summer once all newts have been safely moved to their new habitat.

Bat surveys and Mitigation Strategy for a local Church

LSC were approached by Allan Joyce Architects to assess a local church for roosting bats. The lead had been stolen from the church over the summer and had been patched to keep out the rain, but a quick renovation using a lead-replacement material was needed to prevent further damage from occurring.

LSC undertook an internal and external inspection of the church during the daytime and found evidence of bats, including live bats roosting in the church itself and droppings on the church floor. Two of our surveyors returned to the church at dusk and dawn to assess how bats were using both the internal and external features of the church. We identified three roosts situated around the church, but only one of these had the potential to be affected by the proposed roof replacement works. Careful inspection of the roost location, and dialogue with the architects, confirmed that works could proceed at an appropriate time of year without disturbing the roost or any bats present within it. LSC consulted with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) Ecologist to provide our client with confidence that the recommended approach would be agreed at Planning.

Having received Planning Permission, the roofing works proceeded in the autumn under the supervision of one of LSC’s licenced bat workers, to make sure that the church was protected from the winter weather. The pragmatic and site-specific assessment conducted by LSC meant that there was no need for an EPS licence to undertake these works, avoiding additional costs for the church and time delays to the renovation works.

Allan Joyce architects said “we were delighted with the prompt & helpful advice that enabled us to resolve which security measures to install that would not disturb the bats but will protect the church from future thefts”.

 A church near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire where LSC undertook a building inspection and dusk/dawn emergence and re-entry surveys for roosting bats to support a planning application for essential roof repair works.

A church near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire where LSC undertook a building inspection and dusk/dawn emergence and re-entry surveys for roosting bats to support a planning application for essential roof repair works.