Posts in Environmental Statement
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.