BS42020 was published in August 2013 and the first requests for ecology work on projects to be compliant with this new British Standard (BS) are starting to come through. BSG Ecology has long operated rigorous in-house standards for all of our work including developing and operating our own technical survey standards manual. As such the publication of a BS covering our work in relation to planning and development is very welcome. As always with anything new there is a need to review and understand the new guidance so that we can be sure we are implementing it effectively and efficiently.
As such BSG Ecology recently held a two day workshop on 10 and 11 March 2014 to discuss the BS42020 from purpose to practice.
In summary, BS42020 is a formal British Standard that sets out the expected level of consistency and standards in ecological input to the planning process from scoping and pre-application discussions through to post construction monitoring. This is the first document to be prepared that sets out expectations that the whole ecology profession should be delivering on a day to day basis. The value of doing this, as a British Standard, is that it sets a benchmark within a system of widely recognised professional standards. In addition, the experience and skills that the British Standards Institution (BSI) was able to bring to the process of compiling the BS has ensured it is concise, clear and deliverable.
The workshop was led by Mike Oxford from the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) who has been instrumental in providing the technical lead to the BSI committee that prepared the BS. During the workshop we explored in detail what it will mean for professional ecologists in all sectors and crucially, how it can be used to help our clients who may use the BS and how, together, we make the most of it.
Mike Oxford was interested to hear from BSG how we envisage it working and he specifically sought our views on the inclusion of tools to provide a summary of key ecological baseline information and the outcomes of assessment. We looked at visual tools such as Ecological Constraints and Opportunities Plans (otherwise known as ECOPs) and succinct tables to simply and easily provide necessary information to decision makers such as local planning authorities.
BSG Ecology staff focussed in on how BS4220 can help our clients in securing their planning permission. In our view, the benefits to clients of using the BS are summarised as follows:
- Ability to say that a project is compliant with requirements set out in the BS which will add weight to planning submissions for ecology.
- Emphasis on collaborative interdisciplinary working amongst the various stakeholders involved in the planning process.
- A framework of what is expected of clients as developers, consultants and decision makers in terms of what is sufficient ecology baseline information and the content of ecology reports that accompany planning applications e.g. provide certainty about what action is required for ecology to mitigate losses and to clearly quantify losses and gains in ecology.
- The principle of ‘proportionality’ i.e. that the extent of mitigation and compensation should be proportionate to the predicted degree of risk to ecology/biodiversity and that all professionals involved in preparing and determining planning applications involving biodiversity should adopt a proportionate approach.
- Standards of advice and service that can be reasonably expected from local planning authorities and statutory and non-statutory consultees e.g. clear justification of opinions given and who is competent to provide that advice and the ability to refer back to the BS to request the level of input you need.
- Creation of a level playing field in comments received from local planning authorities, with or without their own in-house ecologists, giving clarity and certainty to applicants.
- Definitions of key terms that otherwise can be misused such as significance – what is significant and what does it mean for your project?
It was a lively couple of days and we are grateful to Mike for leading the workshop. If you would like to talk to BSG Ecology about BS42020, please contact one of the partners. Kirsty Kirkham, Jim Gillespie, Peter Shepherd or Steve Betts