A newt direction for species licencing?

As March and the great crested newt survey season approaches, you may be wondering whether the vote to the leave the European Union changes the surveys required for planning ?

Great crested newt

There are currently no plans to abolish protection of European Protected Species (EPS); protection we presume will be transposed into UK legislation by the Great Reform Bill, although the species was already fully protected under UK law prior to its European designation.

However as part of the Red Tape Challenge, Natural England are reviewing their approach to licences. In December 2016 the agency released the results of a public consultation held in spring 2016 on 4 potential new policies for EPS licensing :

Policy 1: Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating European Protected Species (EPS) from development sites.

Policy 2: Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for lost habitats through development.

Policy 3: Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date.

Policy 4: Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted.

Policy 1 and 2 both look at the idea of “mitigation banking” – which is previously built mitigation that developers can buy into. This changes the emphasis from spending time trapping and removing newts to building a resilient network of pre-planned habitat for them. These two policies should provide developers with more certainty around costs and any delays that might be incurred. However this non-conventional exclusion and relocation technique is controversial and may not yet be approved.

Policy 3 allows newts access to land where development will temporarily create habitat likely to attract EPS, such as mineral extraction. On completion of development it will be necessary to provide well-prepared management plans to ensure gains to the target species. This would only work where the conservation status of the local population would not be detrimentally affected.

Policy 4 is intended to avoid duplicating effort where the distribution of newts is well known and can be inferred from existing data. This policy is intended to reduce costs and increase benefits to EPS through varying licencing approaches to suit site-specific circumstances.

For more information have a look at the pilot in Woking where major urban expansion allows for a planned approach for mitigating for newts.

New Constructionline accreditation

NWS is proud to announce that we have been recently fully accredited by Constructionline.

In order to register with Constructionline, which is a government-led scheme, we have had to demonstrate that our company reaches national Health and Safety and other compliance standards for finance, governance and personnel management, a pre-requisite for working with many companies in both industry and government sectors.

Having the accreditation automatically pre-qualifies us for contracts let via constructionline and allows easy access for clients when sourcing ecological services.

On a day-to-day basis, it gives you additional assurance that the company is operated in a safe and professional manner.

Constructionline accreditation

NWS is now a Constructionline accredited contractor.

Happy dog, happy wildlife

Dog walking can be one of the best ways to get people out and about experiencing nature but our faithful hounds and our beloved wildlife often have conflicting needs, making it difficult to create green spaces suitable for both. Follow these top five tips to plan a greenspace that will result in happy dogs, and happy wildlife:

Happy dog, happy wildlife

Emily and Stig (the world’s first water vole detection dog) enjoying a dog walk and experiencing nature.

  1.  Provide areas of enclosed greenspace. Offering safe areas for dogs to run off-lead makes dog-owners more likely to respect on-lead areas.
  2. Create a circular dog walking route, with clear, defined paths. Obvious paths will encourage dog walkers to stick to a set route meaning they are less likely to disturb more valuable wildlife areas.
  3. Ensure these areas and routes are within 500m of new homes. Placing suitable areas within walking distance will deter owners from driving to areas further-a-field that they perceive to be suitable greenspace.
  4. A range of all-weather surfaces with a naturalistic feel will guarantee dog walkers consistent access without having to invest in walking boots.
  5. Construct an area of clean water with safe access for dogs. Providing an assigned ‘splash-about’ area will keep dogs out of water which contains sensitive wildlife.

If you’d like more advice on planning for wildlife and dogs, Hampshire County Council have produced a wonderful document: Planning for dog ownership in new developments: reducing conflict – adding value.

Stig, pictured is the world’s first water vole detection dog. He is trained in the art of water vole poo detection. To find out more about Stig, his partner in training Lola, and their handler Ali, visit Ecology Dogs. Alternatively, keep regularly up-to-date with their water vole finds by following @EcologyDogs on Twitter.

 

 

Consultation shake up for great crested newts

There may be a big shake up in the approach to Great Crested Newts on development sites. Natural England is seeking views about changes in licencing around Great Crested Newts mitigation. Read their document here

Great crested newt fence with bucket

Great crested newt fence with bucket

The policy proposals are quite a radical change and focus on spending more money on habitat creation to secure long-term populations of newts and less on consultants fees to move them. They are related to the Woking pilot :
http://www.woking.gov.uk/environment/greeninf/newt/gcnpilot/gcnpilotconsult

They have 4 new policies for licences they feel could benefit European protected species whilst “improving flexibility for developers” :

  1. Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating EPS from development sites [ not always having to fence or trap out sites ]
  2. Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for habitats that will be lost [ whether these are nearby or not ]
  3. Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date  [ avoids developers excluding them for worrying about colonisation ]
  4. Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted [ avoids unnecessary surveys that add no greater clarity but additional costs ]

You can comment on these proposed new policies for European protected species licences – the consultation closes at 7 April 2016 5:00pm : https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/wildlife-licensing-comment-on-new-policies-for-european-protected-species-licences

Schedule 9 invasive plants and development

Schedule 9 plants are invasive and generally need controlling on a development site. After talking to a client about yellow archangel, we thought a list of schedule 9 would be helpful. It is an offence to “plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild invasive non-native plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”

A lot of the most invasive are aquatic or live in marshy environments e.g. Crassula helmsii, but brownfield sites also harbour species such as knotweed.  We can advise on control methods to incorporate into construction management for you.

Plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales

Common Name Latin Name  
Elodea (waterweeds) eg Canadian waterweed Elodea Canadensis All species of the Elodea genus Aquatic – widespread in Norfolk
Curly waterweed Lagarosiphon major Aquatic
Duck potato Sagittaria latifolia Aquatic
Entire-leaved cotoneaster Cotoneaster integrifolius Garden escape
Knotweed Fallopia japonica x Fallopia sachalinensis (a hybrid knotweed) Brownfield sites
False Virginia creeper Parthenocissus inserta Garden escape
Fanwort (Carolina water-shield) Cabomba caroliniana Aquatic
Few-flowered leek Allium paradoxum
Floating pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides Aquatic – highly invasive
Floating water primrose Ludwigia peploides Aquatic
Giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum Fairly commonly encountered
Giant knotweed Fallopia sachalinensis Brownfield sites
Giant rhubarb Gunnera tinctoria Too cold in Norfolk
Giant salvinia Salvinia molesta Aquatic
Green seafingers Codium fragile
Himalayan cotoneaster Cotoneaster simonsii
Hollyberry cotoneaster Cotoneaster bullatus
Hottentot-fig Carpobrotus edulis Too cold in Norfolk
Indian balsam Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera Water courses and rivers
Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica Brownfield sites
Japanese rose Rosa rugosa
Montbretia Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora
New Zealand pigmyweed (Australian swamp-stonecrop) Crassula helmsii Aquatic – highly invasive in Norfolk
Parrot’s-feather Myriophyllum aquaticum Aquatic
Perfoliate Alexanders Smyrnium perfoliatum
Purple dewplant Disphyma crassifolium
Red algae Grateloupia luxurians
Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum Acid soils only
Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum x Rhododendron maximum Acid soils only
Small-leaved cotoneaster Cotoneaster microphyllus Garden escape
Shallon Gaultheria shallon
Three-cornered garlic Allium triquetrum Too cold in Norfolk ?
Variegated yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. argentatum Garden escape
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia Garden escape
Water fern Azolla filiculoides Aquatic
Water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes Aquatic
Water lettuce Pistia stratiotes Aquatic
Water primrose Ludwigia grandiflora / Ludwigia uruguayensis Aquatic
Yellow azalea Rhododendron luteum Acid soils only

What is Section 28 permission ?

Section 28 is the way in which Natural England offer permission for acts that might potentially damage SSSIs.  It refers to the 1981 Countryside & Wildlife Act, which was amended by the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.  It applies to individual landowners as well as public bodies such as Secretary of State, government departments and agencies, local authorities and statutory undertakers ( water, gas, drainage boards ).

The Act requires people who own or occupy of SSSIs to ask Natural England for permission to carry out operations that may “damage the special interest of the site”.  These operations  (also might be called ‘Operations Likely to Damage’ (OLD) or ‘Potentially Damaging Operations’ ( PDOs) are listed for each SSSI. They might include drainage, excavation or change of use.  [Normally where the site is already under a management agreement or management plan agreed with Natural England then the consent will be implicit in these plans. ].

There are three separate strands, based on who is applying and why :

1. Consents (= Section 28 E)

– applies to SSSI owners/occupiers of an SSSI asking permission to undertake works, including a public body where it isnt part of their functions e.g. where they own a SSSI.

2. Assents (= Section 28 H)

where public bodies are carrying out their functions such as  and they need to undertake works on a site that includes an operation identified in the SSSI notification as likely to damage.

3. Advice (= Section 28 I)

– where a public body, such as a local authority, has powers to grant permission for others to undertake work on an SSSI.  Natural England can advise against giving permission for such operations that may “damage the special interest of the site” or advise that conditions should be attached.

Natural England may grant consent, with or without conditions, or refuse consent on operations, where it is not “compatible with furthering the conservation and enhancement of the special interest of the site”.

More information is available from Natural England : https://www.gov.uk/guidance/protected-areas-sites-of-special-scientific-interest 

Ring us if you need advice or supporting surveys.

What does NPPF say about ecology or wildlife ?

National Planning and Policy Framework has quite extensive consideration of ecology and wildlife, including the need for a landscape scale approach to planning and for wildlife gain during development.  We find it quite a big document to download, so the following are the relevant extracts from the National Planning and Policy Framework. We have added in titles for ease of navigation. Continue reading

Which tree survey do I need ?

Sycamore canopy in spring bud

Clients are often asked by planners or others for a tree survey, but are not always sure what type is needed.   We have outlined the different types of tree surveys and the reasons they are needed.

A. Development survey = BS5837:2012 ‘Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction- Recommendations’

A Development Survey also called BS5837 survey is the one normally required by Local Planning Authorities (LPA) for development and planning permission.

A competent “arboriculturalist” [ = tree person ] must inspect the trees on and adjacent to the site. The trees on site are assessed in terms of their retention value which includes their health, longevity and amenity impact.

Trees that are marked for retention, as well as any adjacent trees not on site but affected by development need to be protected from any potential harm that may occur during the demolition and construction phases of the project. This involves both above and below ground precautions. Above ground, the crown spread and dimensions of the tree will need protecting, below ground the roots of the tree are a constraint governed by the Root Protection Area (RPA).

( The RPA is the area the tree’s roots occupy – this requires fencing and ground cover to protect it from above ground operations.) Information on protective measures for the trees on site will be provided as part of the BS5837 report.

B. Tree Hazard Surveys

Where you are concerned about your “duty of care” over a tree, then a Tree Hazard Survey is the one you require.

All tree owners have a legal responsibility as their “duty of care” to ensure others are not at risk from falling trees and branches. You need to assess the level of risk involved on your land. The risk is generally assessed based on :

  1. The level, extent and type of access that people have to the land on which the tree stands or where the branches could fall.
  2. The condition and health of the tree.

The factors underlying the condition and health of the tree will dictate how often the tree should be re-inspected for potential hazards. Advice on mitigating hazards by undertaking tree work can be suggested as part of the inspection, which you need to act upon.

C: Advice on Tree Works

Tree works on trees in Conservation Areas or on those with Tree Protection Orders on them need a “Tree Works” application.

When carrying out any tree work it is always advised that a competent arborist be consulted, whether it is a consultant or a tree surgeon. Work should be carried out in line with the British Standard, BS3998:2010 ‘Tree Work- Recommendations’. Trees should be inspected before the work is carried out too ensure the best management practices are employed.

Trees in Conservation Areas and with TPOs often have high amenity value and are well loved by their owners, so are felt to be worth the extra investment.

D: Surveys for underground utility installations

As stated in NJUG Guidelines for the Planning, Installation and Maintenance of Utility Apparatus in Proximity to Trees, there are generally low incidence of damage to underground apparatus by trees where these installed within hard surfaces ( e.g. pavements ). However trees can have variable growing patterns in term of root structure, especially if there are below ground obstructions to root growth. This can make any changes on site in the trees RPA potentially hazardous. Work on operational land for utilities often requires no LPA application, however it is considered good practice to follow BS3857 to implement tree protection methods where possible.