With many protected plants and animals finding a refuge within rough grassland, log piles, hedgerows, disused buildings and quarries, areas of wasteland can be a small haven for all types of wildlife. Understandably, the ecological value of such habitats may pose a number of challenges for contractors wishing to transform an underused area of land and as a result, ecological consultants are increasingly required to ensure the smooth running and future progress of a project.
Ecological consultants can offer advice and guidance for all types of projects involving wildlife – from redevelopments, conversions and demolitions through to new builds – in order to conserve the habitats of protected species. For most projects, this involves conducting a number of studies and surveys to determine the best methods for the long-term protection of plants and animals.
The initial stage is known as a Phase One Habitat Survey and determines which areas of land are of particular ecological value, including habitats listed under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. There are certain habitats and species listed within the plan that are defined as a conservation priority and this initial stage aims to ensure that these ecological resources are protected as such.
Windrush Ecology Ltd Managing Director, Dr. Ted Bodsworth, said:
“Each species will have very different and very specific habitat requirements and so the work we conduct has to reflect this.
“Certain species – bats, the great crested newt and the dormouse – are European protected species and therefore have the highest level of protection throughout the UK and Europe. Where impacts on these species are identified, we must obtain a licence from Natural England to demonstrate that we have plans in place for their continued protection and so there can often be a bit of red tape to work through first.
“If we are preserving a bat habitat, we conduct a series of surveys to determine what times the bats are roosting and then we prepare a mitigation strategy based upon this evidence. Careful timing and a sensitive work practice is often the key to making a project involving bats work.
“However, in a lot of cases the requirements for protecting wildlife are fairly simple as long as the habitats they use can be retained and enhanced. Simple enhancement measures such as native planting, log piles and bat boxes can be very effective.”
Once a project is complete, ecological consultants will often return to a site to assess the new provisions that have been created. Ongoing monitoring may also take place to ensure that the project continues to protect the future needs of the wildlife that reside within and around the site.
Dr. Ted Bodsworth added:
“The construction industry is becoming increasingly aware of the value of protecting wildlife and there are many simple ways to encourage wildlife to thrive using relatively inexpensive means.
“In the past there was a tendency to call upon the services of an ecological consultant once work got underway but now we’re on board from day one of a project. This allows us to offer input from the very beginning, which ensures a much smoother construction process throughout.
“Most ecologists are enthusiastic natural historians as well as consultants. We’re really lucky to be able to do this as a profession and it’s great to be able to see a project come together whilst important work such as this takes place.”
Windrush Ecology Ltd
Windrush Ecology Ltd is an independent ecological consultancy that specialise in wildlife surveys, assessment and research. For over three years the company has provided services to the construction industry to help shape the design, plan and management of developments projects.
Windrush Ecology Ltd provides ecological surveys and services for new builds, brownfield regeneration and renewable energy projects through to building conversions, renovations and extensions. The work that the company conducts has a specific focus on historic buildings and landscapes and previous projects include St. Mary’s Church in Witney, St. Albans Cathedral and a number of works for Blenheim Palace Estate.