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Phase 1 survey of a brownfield site

phase 1 brownfield site

Derelict buildings sometimes require bat roost assessments

An extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey was commissioned for a site in south Norfolk. The site consisted of 0.3ha of unused land, including an old dilapidated building and several trees with bordering woodland, farmland and existing development. WFE undertook a site survey to classify the habitats to JNCC standards, and with the methods being ‘extended’ to include a general evaluation of potential habitats for any protected or valued species. The habitats on the site and surrounding area were classified, hedgerows were appraised, buildings and trees were inspected for bats and considerations were made concerning other protected species.

All the information we collected was mapped, supported by target notes and photographs detailing protected species issues. Further protected species issues were ruled out in this case and this fed into a final report for planning. If further surveys had been necessary, WFE could have produced what is known as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) and a final report produced after necessary surveys had been completed.

Preliminary appraisal used to inform project design

In March 2019 a small proposed housing development in Suffolk required a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (or PEA) to understand ecological risks prior to our client making key planning and design decisions.  We would always advise doing this: issues flagged early can avoid significant delays and costs associated with seasonal survey constraints and re-design. Unfortunately an all too common occurrence when this advice is not followed.

In this case we were able to inform the client of the presence of great crested newts and reptiles in the surrounding area, both of which were flagged by a habitat survey and the data search we conducted. The data search also identified a sensitive grassland close by which was a County Wildlife Site.

ecological appraisal informs project design

A great crested newt found on site

The report we produced provided clear advice on the next steps, timings for necessary surveys, likely mitigation requirements and possible future licencing requirements. This information was fed into the design and planning stages.

Incidentally, the required great crested newt eDNA surveys were mobilised in April and we were able to complete our final report for planning by late May 2017 with no delay to the project timetable. If the client had come to us at the end of their design process, due to the seasonality of the surveys needed, the project would have been delayed until early-2020.

Waterbird disturbance surveys at the Upper Nene Valley SPA

WFE was commissioned to undertake a study on disturbance of waterbirds in the Upper Nene Valley Special Protection Area (SPA).  We planned the surveys carefully by visiting the site with the client beforehand, and then repeatedly visited four gravel pit sites to monitor human activity and disturbance at each site. Our surveys recorded the impact of disturbance to birds present, routes used by the public and birds using each waterbody.

With urban populations set to grow in Northamptonshire, this study provided information on the impacts of public disturbance on the populations of bird species for which the SPA is designated. These include bittern, coot, gadwall, great crested grebe, mute swan and tufted duck. We recorded the level of response of the waterbirds present to each disturbance. This showed how the birds were being disturbed by different activities.

Waterbird disturbance survey bird

Wild Frontier’s ornithologists surveyed disturbance to waterbirds in the Upper Nene Valley SPA

A variety of activities were seen across the sites including cycling and sailing. The largest proportion of disturbance was at weekends and the highest levels of activity and disturbance were mid-morning. Walkers and dog walkers were found to use the sites most often. These two groups were found to cause most of the disturbance.

These findings meant we could advise the client on the activities at each site and ways to reduce impacts. The client was pleased with the work undertaken and can act on our survey results to encourage more responsible use of the SPA.

Surveying trees for bat roost potential

  • January 29, 2020
  • Blog

When trees may need to be removed or worked on, their potential to be a home to bats has to be considered.

The first step in evaluating a tree for bats is assessing the number and quality of features where bats could potentially roost in the tree. Good bat roost features can include woodpecker holes, hollow stems and cracked branches to name just a few.

Wild Frontier Ecology undertook potential bat roost surveys for 300 individual trees and 23 groups of trees growing at a former RAF base in Cambridgeshire where a development was proposed. Trees were rated as having either low, medium or high potential for roosting bats.

Tree with bat roost potential survey

This Lombardy poplar has high bat roost potential. (Left: multiple cavities in the stem. Right: decay and crevices in the stem)

This information was provided to the developer along with a full arboricultural assessment assessing the quality of the trees for planning purposes. Generally, it was those trees which had poorer arboricultural value and limited future life expectancy that had higher bat roost potential. Wild Frontier’s combined specialisms in ecology and arboriculture helped to provide the developer with advice on which trees were suitable for retention and which could be removed.  

Future work on the site will include bat emergence surveys for those trees which are both targeted for removal and have potential for roosting bats. A subsequent application to Natural England for a European Protection Species licence can then be made to cover the required tree felling works and secure mitigation.

 

Long Stratton area action plan

Ecological Enhancement Advice targeted by habitat

WFE provided enhancement advice for a variety of habitats on site

WFE was commissioned to provide an ecological assessment of a proposed bypass and 1,800 house development at Long Stratton in Norfolk. We worked with the development team from an early stage on the location of development and greenspace. Ongoing ecological surveys were performed to refine project design, and further define any constraints and opportunities for enhancement.

Once surveys were completed, WFE provided a valued input into the landscaping design, advising significant ecological enhancements into the scheme which reflected the species and habitats shown to be present during surveys. This targeted approach will maximise the biodiversity net gain on the developed site. Considerations for the development included circular walks, cycle paths, wildlife planting, provision for arable plants and retention and reconnection of other important features such as ponds.

Wintering bird surveys in an SPA

  • January 27, 2020
  • Blog

WFE was commissioned to undertake a study of foraging wintering birds on the River Deben Estuary SPA (Special Protection Area) in Suffolk, focusing on a particular area where a freshwater flow was pumped from a sluice at night into the river from surrounding arable land. Natural England were concerned that plans to redirect this waterflow away from the estuary may impact non-breeding waterfowl species such as brent goose and redshank for which the Deben is an internationally important site. Water birds have been found to preferentially associate with freshwater flows over mudflats due to accessibility of fresh water for bathing and drinking and an increase in invertebrate prey densities.

wintering bird surveys

The River Deben is an internationally important site for bird species such as redshank and brent goose

The study compared the ornithological importance of the outfall site, which has intermittent flowing freshwater, with two control sites, one comprised an area of mudflat with no freshwater influence, while the other control was an area of mudflat with a permanent freshwater gravity flow. Two nocturnal surveys and one daylight survey were conducted per month between November and March on all three areas and involved the counting and identifying all bird species present with the assistance of thermal imaging cameras.

The study discovered that the area with the permanent freshwater flow hosted a significantly greater density of birds than the other two sites, which both had a very similar density of birds associated with both the nocturnal surveys and diurnal surveys. It was concluded that the site with the intermittent freshwater water flow had a negligible influence on the local bird communities providing equivalent habitat to a creek with no freshwater input and therefore the removal of the water flow would have no negative impacts on the wintering bird populations listed as interest features of the Deben Estuary SPA.

A new water pipeline at Thetford

  • January 27, 2020
  • Blog

In 2018 Wild Frontier Ecology undertook an extended Phase 1 habitat survey along a proposed water pipeline route around Thetford in Norfolk. The route was proposed to go through an industrial estate, agricultural fields, pastures, grasslands, hedges and trees.

To assess the habitats along the route, and the potential for any impacts on protected species, Wild Frontier Ecology first carried out a desk survey. This comprised a search for conservation sites within 2km of the proposed route and a data search with the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service for species records. Fourteen statutorily designated nature conservation sites and 16 County Wildlife Sites were found with three of the County Wildlife Sites directly intersecting the route. 6,450 species records, including reptiles and a variety of bird species were also found within the 2km buffer.

Next the route was subject to a walkover survey where all habitats within a 100-250m buffer of the proposed pipeline were mapped and considered for their potential to host protected species such as great crested newts, reptiles and stone curlews. Ponds were also recorded and assessed for their suitability for great crested newts.

phase 1 water pipeline

An excerpt of a Phase 1 Habitat Map for the pipeline route

Based on the findings of the habitat survey, the client was advised that further great crested newt, reptile and stone curlew surveys should be undertaken to ensure impacts on these species were fully considered. No great crested newts were found in any of the surveyed ponds, a population of grass snakes was recorded at one County Wildlife Site and a stone curlew nest recorded just to the north of the route.

phase 1 water pipeline

Adam contemplates an early bath

Subsequent advice on how to avoid the recorded ecological features allowed the client to opt for directionally drilling under the County Wildlife Sites.

Wild Frontier’s final report then summarised the anticipated ecological impacts for the purposes of planning. Tailored construction methods and seasonal restrictions to the work were advised based on the survey findings. Altogether the package of survey works and clear practical advice meant that the project was assessed to have a neutral ecological impact in the long term, fulfilling the client’s ecological obligations.

Ecological mitigation for a coastal grassland site

ecological mitigation coastal grassland

Broom flowering on the existing site

A brownfield site in North Norfolk is planned to accommodate a small housing development. It was surveyed by WFE and found to have a good quality semi-improved coastal-type grassland in parts of the site, including such species as spring vetch, rest-harrow and abundant common knapweed. As the grassland was determined to be neutral rather than acid or chalky, it was not considered to be a Priority Habitat. However, the case was put to the developer that the grassland was worth saving, to which the developer agreed.

There was no room on the developed site to accommodate the grassland, and the site is not well ecologically connected. It was considered that offsite compensation would be the only realistic option. A mitigation plan was put together in consultation with the county ecologist. The plan is to translocate turves and seed from the grassland to a site a few miles along the coast to try to establish it in a similar coastal location. The scheme has full support of the landowner, and is due to take place in 2020. Watch this space for updates!

ecological mitigation coastal grassland

Receptor site for seed and turves

Bats in a barn conversion

bats barn conversion Adam

Adam installs a receptor bat box on a tree as part of the mitigation for a bat EPS licence

As part of the works under a bat EPS licence, WFE provided an ECoW service for the conversion of a barn complex in Hindolveston, Norfolk in 2018.  Survey work over the summer of 2017 identified the presence of common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and brown long-eared bat roosts within the barns.

The ECoW service included a “Toolbox Talk” to contractors prior to commencement of works on the site to ensure awareness of protected species issues and their responsibilities while working on the site, direct supervision of sensitive works, and consultation to ensure the correct installation of mitigation and compensation measures on site.

During the course of the supervised hand-stripping of roof tiles from the barns, two roosting bats were encountered; one common pipistrelle and one brown long-eared bat.  On each of these occasions the Natural England bat licensed ECoW was on hand to

bats barn conversion pip

A common pipistrelle was safely translocated during an Ecological Clerk of Works supervised roof strip

carefully remove the bat from the works site, give it a health check and relocate it to a receptor bat box in a suitable location elsewhere on site. 

Due to the effective ECoW service provided this project ran smoothly in accordance with the terms and conditions of the EPS licence, resulting in the prevention of harm to roosting bats and effective mitigation and compensation measures being implemented.

 

Bats revealed in a building inspection

WFE was commissioned to inspect a former Methodist chapel and associated buildings in Norwich for bats. A previous inspection by another consultant had found no bats, but small amounts of droppings in the roof void of the main chapel building. The consultant had concluded a development licence would not be required in view of the works undertaken, but the plans had since changed to include intrusion into the roof void. 

bats building inspection

A brown long eared bat roosting on the ridge beam

The exterior of the buildings was inspected by eye, with a full photographic record made. The complex nature of the building layout meant that certain parts could only be viewed by ascending exterior ladders to view roof sections. On the inside, the very high internal ceilings resulted in long ladder climbs, but the roof voids were largely boarded out.

The main roof void contained a single brown long-eared bat, characteristically roosting on the ridge beam. The finding of the bat gave client some certainty in terms of a timetable for renovation of the building and helped to clarify the licencing requirements for the development.

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