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info@agbenvironmental.co.uk

Ecology

With a significant track record in the public and private sectors, agb Environmental offers a wealth of ecology knowledge to ensure that your project is able to continue with minimal impact.

Licensed to survey for bats, great crested newts and dormice, our ecologists are experienced and trained to complete Phase 1 surveys, including BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes assessments, as well as regular Phase 2 surveys for birds, botany, otters, water voles and badgers. The team is also able to cater for more unusual services, such as tree climbing bat surveys, site management and clearance.

Working with a team of specialist sub-contractors based across the UK, we can deal with ecological issues in a cost effective and expedient manner anywhere in the country.

Download a copy of our ecology survey calendar here.

Download a copy of our mitigation calendar here.

Our key areas of specialism include:

Preliminary Ecological Assessments and Phase 1 Habitat Surveys

Planning applications for many sites will require only one report – a Phase 1 Ecology Survey. However this is also given a variety of other titles, depending on the LPA concerned, including Preliminary Ecological Assessment, Ecology Report, Walkover Survey, Biodiversity Assessment, Protected Species Survey.

Whichever name the survey goes by, an assessment of the site will detail any potential protected species issues relevant to planning, with advice on legal obligations, and recommendations on any further surveys required or precautionary working methods.

Our team has the knowledge, experience and qualifications needed to carry out ecological survey to the standard required by the LPA. The Ecology Team are all members of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) adhering to the Code of Professional Conduct and following best practice at all times to ensure applications are not delayed.

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Precautionary clearance

Protected Species Surveys

Our in-house team of ecology specialists are able to identify any potential protected species issues, providing advice on the likely implications for the proposed development, and recommend the most cost-effective and expedient way to proceed.

Great Crested Newts

Great crested newts (GCN) are European Protected Species under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended). They are also fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Implications for Development

Any site within 500m of potential breeding ponds/water bodies could be used by great crested newts during their terrestrial phase. LPAs are likely to ask for a GCN assessment for any planning application within 100m of a water-body, and large developments within 500m of ponds. A daytime assessment may be all that is required if there is limited ecological connectivity from the pond to the site, and low potential for GCN to use the pond for breeding. However, if the pond is suitable and if there is terrestrial habitat on the site that could be used by GCN, a full survey may be needed.

Survey Methods

GCN surveys have a very narrow survey window, so missing the season can delay applications by up to a year. Under current guidelines, four surveys are required between mid-March and mid-June, with half of the surveys between mid-April and mid-May. If GCN would be impacted, and a European Protected Species licence required to proceed with the development, a further two surveys would be carried out to inform the licence application. Surveys usually involve netting and night-time surveys with torches, searching for eggs, and setting bottle traps in ponds overnight.

Mitigation / Compensation

A Natural England European Protected Species licence would be required for any development that would impact on habitat used by GCN. This includes terrestrial habitat – even if this is some distance from the breeding pond. Mitigation would be specific to the site and situation, but often involves trapping the site for at least 30 days (more if a larger population would be impacted) – and exclusion fencing the site to prevent re-colonisation. Any GCN within the construction zone would be moved to a suitable receptor area – with breeding pond. If there isn’t a suitable water body in the local area, a new pond may need to be created and established before the translocation can proceed. Consideration of ecology at an early stage of the planning process is always recommended to avoid delays and ensure that there is space within schemes for mitigation, if necessary.

Other Information

Planning applications should not (under LPA guidance) be registered/validated unless full GCN surveys have been completed (if recommended in a Phase 1 survey).

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White Clawed Crayfish

Partially protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), white clawed crayfish require specific provisions when developing.

Implications For Development

White clawed crayfish should be considered as a possible issue where development affects suitable water courses (streams, rivers, canals) and water bodies (lakes, ponds, quarries). This may be indirect impact, such as pollution incidents and run-off into the watercourse, or direct disturbance within the channel of the watercourse, for example bridging works.

Survey Methods

The optimal survey time is March to October inclusive, but avoiding May and June when females are releasing young.

Mitigation / Compensation

White clawed crayfish can be re-located by an appropriately licensed ecologist. However, avoidance measures may obviate the need for detailed surveys and relocation. Exclusion/capture programmes can only be undertaken during March, and July to October inclusive.

Other Information

White clawed crayfish are the only native species, and in decline due to competition from non-native invasive crayfish; disease and habitat loss/modification.

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Bats

All species of bat are European Protected Species under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended), and are also fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Implications For Development

Any site that may impact on trees, bridges, buildings, or underground structures (cellars) must be assessed for potential to support roosting bats. An initial daytime assessment, by one of agb Environmental’s fully bat-licensed ecologists, will determine if further survey is necessary. If the structure can be fully inspected and no potential roosting opportunities are present, then this is all that is required for a planning application. However, where roosting bats are suspected, an activity survey may be necessary to establish if proposals will impact on bats.

Survey Methods

Surveys are usually carried out between May and September, when bats are active. In some situations, the maternity season may need to be included (June to August). Surveys usually involve dawn and dusk surveys with specialist bat detecting/recording equipment. Aerial tree-climbing surveys can be undertaken at any time of year, by our in-house bat-licensed tree-climber.

Mitigation / Compensation

A Natural England European Protected Species licence would be required for any development that would impact on bats at any stage of their life cycle (roosting, hibernating). This may also include lighting impacts, even if bats will not be directly impacted by loss of a roost.

Other Information

Planning applications should not (under LPA guidance) be registered/validated unless full bat surveys have been completed (if recommended in a Phase 1 survey).

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Badgers

Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992), and Section 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Implications For Development

Any development within impact distance of a badger sett (usually approximately 30m); or where commuting routes or foraging areas may be affected, could require mitigation for badgers.

Survey Methods

Badger surveys can be carried out all year round, however, the optimal survey time is spring and early winter, when the vegetation does not limit identification of signs of badger presence. In some situations, infra-red cameras may be set-up to record badger movement over a period of time.

Mitigation / Compensation

Badger setts can be closed under a derogation licence, issued by the appropriate Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation. There are time constraints, to ensure the breeding and dependant-cub period is avoided, therefore, sett closure can only be carried out between July and November.

Other Information

Badgers are not Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. They are legally protected to prevent persecution and cruelty, rather than due to a conservation concern.

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Water Vole

Water voles are fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). The animals themselves are protected from harm, but also their burrows and habitat.

Implications For Development

Water voles should be considered for any development affecting water courses or water bodies: Ditches, rivers, streams, ponds. This may be through direct impact (bridge construction; filling in ditches; re-routing streams), or by pollution, outfall into adjacent water courses.

Survey Methods

A survey for water voles can be carried out between March and November – not after flooding of river banks, and preferably in spring or autumn, when the riverside vegetation is not too dense.

Mitigation / Compensation

Impact on water voles can often be avoided by precautionary working methods, and by enhancing and protecting a vegetated buffer zone between the development and the water course, which water voles can continue to use both during and post-development.

Other Information

Natural England will no longer issue licences to translocate water voles for development purposes. If it is proposed to in-fill a ditch which supports water voles, then this is unlikely to be approved unless there is a significant reason why a layout change can’t be implement to enable the ditch to be retained and protected. Licences are only available (since legislation changes in April 2008) for ‘conservation’ purposes.

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Otters

Otters are European Protected Species under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended). They are also fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Implications For Development

Otters could be affected where development affects main waterways, lakes and other suitable water bodies – especially if there is a risk of severing the commuting route along the watercourse (e.g. bridging works).

Survey Methods

A single survey at any time of year is usually sufficient to identify if otters are present. However, survey is limited after flooding of the riverbanks or when the riverside vegetation is too dense.

Mitigation / Compensation

Impact on otters can usually be avoided by leaving, and protecting, a vegetated buffer zone between the development and the water body, enabling otters to continue to use the site, both during and post-development.

Other Information

Planning applications should not (under LPA guidance) be registered/validated unless full otter surveys have been completed (if recommended in a Phase 1 survey), so that mitigation and protection methods can be built into the project design and secured by planning conditions, where necessary.

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Reptiles

Widespread reptile species (adder, common lizard, slow worm and grass snake) are partially protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended): The animals themselves are protected from harm, killing or injuring, but their habitat is not protected.

Smooth snake and sand lizard are fully protected under the WCA, and are also European Protected Species under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended). However, these are rare and have a very restricted distribution in the UK, so are rarely impacted by development.

Implications For Development

Reptiles may be a consideration for development affecting many low-disturbance habitats, including rough grassland, hedge banks, arable field margins, woodland, allotments and waste-ground.

Survey Methods

Under best practice guidelines (which are currently being revised), seven visits are required to survey previously laid artificial refuges. However, there are weather and timing constraints: Surveys should be undertaken between mid-March and September (with no surveys in prolonged hot periods during mid-summer).

Mitigation / Compensation

Reptiles can be translocated without a licence, however, for planning applications, a mitigation method statement should be agreed with the LPA to ensure that the proposed translocation is appropriate, and sustainable in the long-term. The proposed translocation should ensure that the local conservation status of the species is maintained, as well as protecting the individuals themselves.

There is a hierarchy of precedence where reptiles are present:

1. Maintain the reptiles in situ. This is the preferential method if possible within the scheme, and if the habitat is not going to be fragmented, or surrounded on all sides by developed land.
2. Re-locate within the proposed scheme. Moving the reptiles to an appropriately managed and protected wildlife area within the boundary of the development, if appropriate.
3. Translocate off-site. This must be to either a local wildlife area or other site that has suitable habitat for the species being translocated. The site must also be protected for the foreseeable future (not land which could be developed at a later date).

Other Information

Although widespread reptiles have a lower level of protection than the European Protected Species, most LPAs require results of full reptile surveys (where recommended), and a mitigation strategy before they will determine a planning application.

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Dormice

Dormice are European Protected Species under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended). They are also fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Implications For Development

Dormice should be considered where sites impact woodland, scrub or suitable hedges, with a diversity of foraging opportunities and connectivity to other suitable habitat which may support dormice.

Survey Methods

Dormice hibernate all winter, and a valid survey must be started early in the spring to complete in late summer/autumn. Dormice surveys take several months, and involve fixing nest-tubes to suitable vegetation, with regular checks over several months.

Mitigation / Compensation

A European Protected Species license would be required for any development which would impact on habitat used by dormice.

Other Information

Dormice have the same level of protection as great crested newts and bats. Surveys for dormice have a longer duration than any other protected species survey, because they live at very low densities and can be difficult to detect. Planning applications should not (under LPA guidance) be registered or validated unless full dormice surveys have been completed (if recommended in a Phase 1 survey).

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Birds

If impact on nesting birds can’t be avoided through appropriate timing of site clearance, a nesting bird survey will be required directly before the site works start.

Any development within impact distance of a Special Protection Area (SPA) must assess the potential for the key bird species to be affected. Consideration must be taken when directly affecting loss of habitat, or indirect impacts, such as increasing visitor numbers to habitats used by these species.

Nesting Bird Surveys

A nesting bird survey should precede any demolition or vegetation clearance between March and August inclusive. This involves a single visit, preferably at dawn, immediately before works start. In key habitats, breeding bird surveys may additionally be required. These involve repeat visits to sites to record all birds heard and seen between March and June.

Winter Bird Surveys

A potentially key overwintering site, used by significant species or overwintering flocks of birds (such as water bodies, estuaries and large areas of arable land) usually requires a winter bird survey. This targets the individual site specifically, but typically involves monthly visits between October and March.

Mitigation / Compensation

Should an active nest be identified within the clearance zone, an exclusion zone must be observed until the young birds have fledged. Compensatory land provision and/or targeted habitat management may be required if a rare bird is using the site.

Other Information

Nesting bird surveys will usually be a condition of the planning consent. Breeding or winter bird surveys are usually requested pre-planning.

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Ecological Clerk of works

Fencing, Implementation, Habitat Management and Creation

Our team carries out a wide range of mitigation and habitat management services, with our in-house ecologists carrying out the work to approved specifications. This level of expertise and experience is important when works are implemented to discharge planning conditions, or to comply with protected species licences.

Our team of in-house ecologists are able to construct reptile and newt exclusion fencing to Natural England specification, which is often required pre-translocation to avoid animals getting back onto the site.

As CSCS card holders with full NPTC qualification, our team is also able to use strimmers/brush-cutters and chainsaw, which enables us to clear sites under a method statement where there is a risk of encountering species, such as reptiles or nesting birds.

Our ecologists have carried out many practical habitat management tasks relating to development, site clearance, S106 agreements and to discharge planning conditions, including;

• Fencing (design and implementation for amphibian or reptile exclusion)

• Coppicing and scrub clearance

• Bird and bat box installation

• Tree and hedge planting

• Pond creation / restoration

• Loggery / hibernacula construction

• Badger sett closures

• Supervision of building demolition and site-clearance under NE license

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Site supervision under licence (demolition, clearance)

BREEAM And Code For Sustainable Homes

A Suitably Qualified Ecologist (SQE) is required to complete assessments for BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes. This is often a planning requirement and is worth considering at an early stage, so that a BREEAM-compliant ecology report is prepared at the planning stage to avoid further costs at a later date.

Our in-house ecologists are SQEs, under BREEAM criteria and experienced in maximizing credits (Eco1- Eo4 / LE2 – LE5) at a wide range of sites, including residential schemes, from single plot to large strategic schemes; schools and colleges; industrial and warehouse buildings; retail; multi-residential buildings; ambulance stations/health centres; hotels and bespoke schemes.

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Habitat creation and management Code for Sustainable Homes / BREEAM Assessments

Hedgerow Regulations

Certain hedges are protected under the Hedgerows Regulations (1997). It is against the law to remove or destroy certain hedgerows without the permission of the local planning authority.

Our in-house ecologists are SQEs, under BREEAM criteria and experienced in maximizing credits (Eco1- Eo4 / LE2 – LE5) at a wide range of sites, including residential schemes, from single plot to large strategic schemes; schools and colleges; industrial and warehouse buildings; retail; multi-residential buildings; ambulance stations/health centres; hotels and bespoke schemes.

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Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)

Needed to assess the potential effects of a development, EcIAs forms a vital part of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). Providing information on the necessary regulations, the assessments help identify protected habitat, vegetation and protected species.

Habitat Management Plans

Used to provide information for maintenance contractors or grounds-persons on landscape management, post-completion. Usually required as a condition of planning, to ensure that any ecologically sensitive natural and planted areas of the site are appropriately protected and managed for the long term.

Habitat Management Plans cover at least the first five years after the development has been completed, with regular updating and reviews to ensure that the information remains relevant. For some longer-term, phased developments, implementation of the Habitat Management Plan may begin during the construction phase.

Any compensatory habitat creation or mitigation that has been required to offset habitat loss or impact through the development, must be sensitively managed to protect wildlife after the development activities have finished. A detailed plan will be written in a clear and concise manner by our in-house team, specifying landscape and habitat management regimes for any natural areas retained or created on the site; protection of any sensitive habitats or species; and any further monitoring requirements.

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ecology CPD

Dedicated Ecology CPD Seminar at Your Office

Ecology is perhaps one of the few technical surveys that has the potential to cause significant delays, costs and complications to a project. To help navigate through this complex technical field, we have established an in depth Continued Professional Development (CPD) that considers ecology.

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Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

A Guide to a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)

If you aren’t sure whether a PEA is required, agb Environmental have released EVA (Ecological Validation Appraisal), a unique service aimed at providing you with a clear steer on whether the Local Planning Authority will be seeking a PEA.

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Career Opportunity – Graduate / Assistant Ecologist

agb Environmental is seeking a Graduate / Assistant Ecologist to be based at our Newmarket, Suffolk office.

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London’s Plane Trees Under Threat

London’s plane trees could be under threat, warns the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA), from a new disease originating from the Continent. Plane trees account for 10% of all trees in London, making them one of the most densely populated breeds in the capital.

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Local Authorities to Use CPNs to Tackle Knotweed

The danger Japanese Knotweed poses to biodiversity has been well publicised, and now a change to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act gives regulatory powers the right to fine those who refuse to act upon knotweed infestations. Inaccurate reports have stated ASBOs could be given to homeowners failing to control the spread of Japanese Knotweed, however the fine (that could be up to £2500) would be part of a new system that differentiates criminal behaviour orders, and ASBOS, from the protection of places.

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Arboricultural Impact Assessments and Tree Surveys

You’re all set to start planning your development, or maybe submit the planning application, when you’re told you need a tree survey. Who do you need to ask, and what is it you need from them?

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