New level 1 GCN licence

Ben Christie Assistant Ecologist

Ben preparing for the great crested newt season in 2017.

NWS is proud to announce that our assistant ecologist, Ben Christie, recently acquired his level 1 great crested newt (GCN) class licence. Great crested newts are European Protected Species, meaning a license is needed to work with the species. Ben has worked exceptionally hard to obtain his license which permits him to survey great crested newts by hand, net, torch, aquatic funnel traps and bottle traps.

 

Bat survey health and safety training

NWS staff have undertaken new bat survey health and safety training.

Health and safety training

Sally, Carolyn and Chris now know how to enter derelict buildings safely during initial inspections.

Members of the team have learnt how to safely survey a building during initial inspections. Ecologists often have to enter derelict buildings to get a feel for their bat roost potential. Following this training, NWS staff now knows how best to avoid hazards, such as inhalation of asbestos.

Successful Water Vole Course at Hickling Broad

ratty

© Alex McLennan

On the 29th June, members of the public, Norfolk Wildlife Trust staff and Broads Authority staff all attended a successful NWS-led water vole course at Hickling Broad. Sue Traer (course leader and water vole specialist) kicked off the day in the classroom, catching everyone up to speed with water vole ecology, covering their lifecycle, habitat, food, and predators.

With the water vole taking the unfortunate position of Britain’s fastest declining mammal, Sue also tackled the species’ conservation status, educating attendees on the problems the water vole faces, the reasons for their decline and current water vole legislation.

After lunch everyone whacked on their wellies and headed outside. John Blackburn gave attendees a tour of the reserve, introducing them to the general habitat of Hickling Broad. Then it was time to learn the all-important survey techniques, applying the lessons from the classroom to the field. Everyone got stuck in searching the ditches for classic water vole signs: latrines, droppings, burrows and footprints.

By the end of the day, after identifying numerous latrines, feeding signs and burrows, everybody headed home satisfied that they could distinguish ‘Ratty’ from their bog-standard rat.

New roles – office manager and lead ecologist

We have two new roles in the team, which we are recruiting to.

We have a vacancy for a “Consultancy Business Officer” at Norfolk Wildlife Services, who will manage the consultancy office. And we are also recruiting a lead ecologist to lead on technical projects. Closing dates are 21 and 14 September respectively.

Full details are on the Norfolk WIldlife Trust site http://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/about-and-contact/vacancies

*** NEW SERVICE *** Tree consultancy

Bee on thorn flower

Bee on thorn flower

Norfolk Wildlife Services now offers an arborist service for trees alongside its existing wildlife services.  During development planning, arboriculture often requires consideration with ecology. Indeed with bats and trees the two often interact.

Furthermore in many of our urban and brownfield spaces, trees and woodland are frequently important features – sites on which we already offer ecology advice to clients. Specified properly in site management, trees and woodland can offer enhancement for the amenity, ecology and landscape of a site, as well as benefits for leisure and recreation.

With arboriculture being a natural synergy with our other wildlife services, we wanted to offer our customers a joined up service for all their trees requirements.  What we offer is :

  •  Tree surveys for development ( to BS5837 )
  •  Woodland management and planting advice
  •  Arboricultural Impact Assessment
  •  Planting plans for small sites
  •  Applications for tree works
  •  Liaison with planners, tree officers and statutory authorities

We are not tree surgeons, but can recommend or source you a reliable contractor should you request. Our ability to source the right contractor for your circumstances means you will have the contractor that fits your needs.

Not sure what type of tree survey you need – read our easy introduction to tree surveys

Bat licence delays – May update

Brown long-eared bat captured during demolition work

Brown long-eared bat caught in demolition work

Finally some good news for bat licences !  The bat queue seems to be declining and the delays are down from four to three weeks. Not brilliant, but better than nowt. Our forecast is for no improvement in the immediate to near future seems to have been wrong ! We don’t have May data for newts, cos we are too busy doing surveys still.

There are still staff shortages within the species protection teams, so the reduction must be down to the effort of the staff. We suspect that they will now be given a large pay rise in recognition of their efforts.

Natural England delays remain in reviewing European Protected Species Licence applications. If you need to gaining a licence and how it might affect your project, please contact us as soon as possible.

The following are based on ‘New’ Application processing time during the four week period 06th April 2015 to 08th May 2015 :

Bat Update (as of 8th May 2015)

  • 202  ‘New’ Applications outstanding [ 368 on 6/4/15 ; 355 on 10/2/15 ; 279 on 22/12/14 ]
  • “New application processing time: Average delay of 14 days (44 days versus 30 working day decision deadline) [ Reduction from 47 days on 6/4/15 ; 48 days in February and 47 days in 22 December ]

Similar processing times were reported for Modifications and Resubmissions.

 

New EPSLs – reduced paperwork

Natural England have updated their European Protected Species licence forms, reducing some of the paperwork burdens on applicants.

New application form for bats

There is a new EPSL application form, which we think makes a lot more sense.  We are not sure if it is editable in all versions of Adobe Reader, but you can certainly use Foxit.  There are seperate forms for <3 species and >3 species, with a lot of tick boxes replacing the need to repeat text in and squeeze stuff up. It should make it more accessible for clients and easier to complete, plus indicates that NE may be streaming licences into low and high impact schemes, which makes a lot of sense.

Applications for home improvements and small scale housing developments

The guidance on the need for a Reasoned Statement has changed, making it only necessary for more complicated applications.  This doesn’t imply that you don’t need a licence – simply that the paperwork is becoming more proportional to the situation.  You need to read the details, but this means no more 20 page documents justifying a loft conversion or putting in a dormer window from NPPF. It also may reduce the paperwork burden on barn conversions under Permitted Development rights.

The exemptions are below.

Exemptions for Bats

“The following categories of work for all bat species and their roosts*:
i. repairs and maintenance, roof replacements, loft conversions, extensions and renovations of existing domestic dwellings and associated structures (eg garages).
ii. small-scale housing developments, including those that may require the demolition of existing buildings (whether domestic dwellings or other types of building).
*Unless the population is of regional or national importance – in which case please contact Natural England (see below) to discuss whether a Reasoned Statement is required.”

Exemptions for Great crested newts
“The following categories of works:
i. repairs and maintenance, extensions and renovations of existing domestic dwellings and associated structures (e.g. garages).
ii. small-scale housing developments within the curtilage of developed or previously developed (brownfield) sites, including those that may require the demolition of existing buildings (whether domestic dwellings or other types of building).”

There are also similar improvements around applications to conserve and protect Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments and places of worship.

You will need to read the fine print to see if this applies to you or contact us for advice.

A very sensible development from Natural England.

The document from Natural England is attached below :

Does my application need supported by a Reasoned Statement April 2015

Bat and newt licence delays – April

We thought an update of European Protected Licence delays for bats and great crested newts on our previous February stats article might be of assistance.

Natural England are still unfortunately experiencing delays in reviewing European Protected Species Licence applications. If you need to gaining a licence and how it might affect your project, please contact us as soon as possible.

The Natural England FCS test are also now processed and signed off at a regional level, which may have lead to some teething issues.  It has helped by improving lines of communication once an advisor has been allocated.  Generally discussion on allocation dates are “vague”, but once the licence is allocated and processed this is generally quick. As a corollary, then it is difficult for clients to plan with certainty when a licence will arrive, except at short notice.

Delays with bat licences have not worsened, but remain steady at around three to four weeks.  Hopefully newly trained staff should be assisting now, but our forecast is for no improvement in the immediate to near future.

With respect to Great Crested Newts, we would forecast that there will be additional delays, which are shown by the lengthening queue, due to the normal “spring surge” of new applications.

The following are based on ‘New’ Application processing time during the four week period 2nd March 2015 to 3rd April 2015 :

Bat Update (as of 6th April 2015)

  • 368  ‘New’ Applications outstanding [ Up from 355 on 10 February, 279 on 22 December ]
  • “New application processing time: Average delay of 17 days (47 days versus 30 working day decision deadline) [ No change from 48 days on February and 47 days on 22 December ]

Similar processing times were reported for Modifications and Resubmissions.

Great Crested Newt Update (as of 6th April 2015 )

  • 162 ‘New’ Applications outstanding [ Up from 52 in February, 19 on 22 December ]
  • “New” application processing time: Average delay of 5 days (35 days versus 30 working day decision deadline) [ 32 days on February, 37 days on 22 December ]

There were similar processing times for Modifications and Resubmissions.

 

Getting stuck in the mud at Cley

With support from members, business and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Norfolk Wildlife Trust acquired 60 hectares of land at NWT Cley Marshes in 2014. Norfolk Wildlife Services carried out baseline studies of the plants and invertebrates with particular focus on the impacts of the January 2014 flooding on the site’s ecology.

We decided to get stuck into the project (literally) to survey the saline lagoons and freshwater dykes across the site for aquatic plants such as Phragmites australis, and aquatic invertebrates such as the water boatman Arctocorisa garmari.  Initial results showed that an increased proportion of the open water on the site was unsurprisingly either brackish or saline. The effect on invertebrate species was evident during surveying as several groups were under-represented such as dragonflies.

In early summer 2015, we will survey the terrestrial invertebrates when they are most active. Some of the terrestrial invertebrates sought for include the Red Data Book ground beetle Pogonus luridipennis, or more commonly found cross spider Araneus diadematus.  Invertebrates like these are key indicators of the habitat quality and conditions present.

NWS will be running a workshop in September next year, looking at how the invertebrate population at Cley supports birds such as bittern, avocet and godwit. Check our website for more details on this “Bittern’s Breakfast and Avocets Lunch” event.

£50,000 pond restoration at Downham Market nature reserve

Norfolk Wildlife Services has been advising the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council on a £50,000 pond restoration project at the Willows Nature Reserve in Downham Market.

The Willows Nature Reserve County Wildlife Site is a fantastic area, adjacent to the pond restoration project area, with thick stands of common reed and bulrush. In 2007, water vole presence within the reedbed was discovered, showing the importance of this small site to fenland wildlife.

Working closely with the Borough Council, we have arrived at a plan, which will restore the pond by removing build up of silt, but not impact on existing wildlife such as reedbeds and water voles. The Fen Group, who have worked with us on a number of other projects, will be undertaking the desilting work under our method statement.  Further drainage work and pipework repairs in the nature reserve will also bring in rainwater and surface water from the reed bed and regulate the new levels within the pond.

Silt will often build up within old ponds and may require removal mechanically. However the silt needs a considerable area to put it in, meaning that area will be buried under nutrient rich slops. As such it needs to be made sure in pond restoration, that in restoring one habitat another isn’t destroyed. In this case, we were able to find an ideal location for a temporary bund to allow the silt to settle out.

Work has commenced and we look forward to seeing the results this summer with abundant fish and invertebrates.

You can read more about it on LynnNews.co.uk

IMG_0221