A decision by the Secretary of State (SoS) on a public inquiry into residential development at land south of Wallisdown Road, Poole was published on 28th February (PINS Ref: APP/Q1255/V/10/2138124). This was a key case called in by the SoS as it involved residential and associated development within 400m of Talbot Heath, which is part of the Dorset Heaths SPA. Understandably Natural England and the RSPB had maintained an objection to the scheme throughout the planning process as this represented a significant departure from their published guidance on development near heathland sites. The decision to grant planning permission by Borough of Poole Council has been overturned by this decision.

Disturbance and increased visitor pressure impacts on internationally designated sites

Internationally designated sites such as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar Sites can have ramifications for development and other activities a long way beyond their immediate boundaries. Where these sites might be affected, impact assessment and decision making is sometimes highly precautionary, meaning that activities many miles removed from these sites can and do come under the closest scrutiny.

Bats in the… blast furnace?

Baker Shepherd Gillespie (BSG) recently provided advice for a lottery-funded project to preserve a blast furnace in the Royal Forest of Dean, an area renowned for its industrial heritage.

Cheverton Down Wind Farm – Review of appeal decision

Dr Peter Shepherd (BSG Partner) was asked to give evidence on behalf of the appellant as the impact on bats was a main issue at this public inquiry. As part of our on-going analysis of wind farm appeal decisions, a review of the Cheverton Down Wind Farm inquiry is presented in an article, written by Dr Shepherd, which includes comments and observations on the appeal decision (issued on 30 August 2011).

Wildlife and Development on Jersey

Jersey’s Island Plan came into force in June 2011, carrying with it clear statements about the importance of protecting, promoting and enhancing the natural environment. It also makes clear a requirement to support planning applications that might affect important or protected biodiversity sites with an appropriate level of ecological information.

Over the wall we go…

Our work with organisations like the National Trust, English Heritage,  Cadw and the Wye Valley AONB project means that we regularly undertake ecological surveys of historic buildings and their grounds.  The sometimes unique nature of these sites means that successful survey can require some creative thinking and the development of non-standard  approaches.

Feed-in Tariff Single Wind Turbine Developments

The UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT), an initiative to provide incentives to people who generate renewable energy to feed some of the electricity back into the National Grid, has generated a lot of interest amongst developers and landowners. In particular, single wind turbine developments are now proving to be very popular but, as with any development, the erection of even a single wind turbine can potentially have impacts on the environment, including ecology.

Smooth Snakes in Surrey

On Sunday Steve Foot accompanied by Natalie White and Owain Gabb went to heathland in Surrey in search of rare reptiles. Steve regularly undertakes survey visits to this heathland and other sites as part of a monitoring scheme run by the Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group. The Surrey ARG undertake surveys of approximately 40 sites spread throughout Surrey with new sites in neighbouring Hampshire, Berkshire and  West Sussex included this year. A number of voluntary surveyors (of which Steve is one) survey these sites each year allowing the Surrey ARG to monitor the populations and the distribution of reptiles across each of the sites.

The thorny question of bats in trees

Locating bat roosts in trees is challenging. If you are very lucky “chittering” may be heard from a tree hole at sunset just before bats emerge, however, trees roosts are typically difficult to identify and cannot be reliably assessed from checks at ground level alone.

An aerial bat roost inspection, a technique which involves ascending a tree using ropes, allows for detailed checks of cavities on a tree for any evidence of bat activity to be carried out using torches, endoscopes and other specialised equipment. Often features which look potentially suitable for roosts when viewed from the ground can be ruled out on close inspection. Because it is often more definitive, an aerial inspection can reduce the amount of conventional dawn/dusk activity surveys required to assess trees with roosting potential and if any further survey is required it can be targeted much more effectively. Aerial survey is therefore a very useful and cost-effective technique for tree survey for bats.

BSG has been carrying out tree climbing surveys since 2007, all surveys being carried out by licenced bat workers qualified to climb trees. We are used to working closely with arboricultural consultants and tree surgeons.

Training course:

We also provide a bespoke “bats and trees” training course which can be tailored to the needs of tree surgeons, site management staff, arboricultural consultants and local authority tree officers. The course provides guidance on assessing the potential of trees for bat roosts, and dealing with the practicalities of the legal protection afforded to bats.

The course is run by Principal Ecologist Guy Miller . Please contact Guy in our Derbyshire Office (01433 651869) if you are interested in receiving training, or if you would like to talk about commissioning an aerial tree survey.

New bat survey guidance for wind farms: what does it mean?

When the Bat Conservation Trust’s (BCT’s) “Bat Survey Guidelines” were published in 2007, wind farms were excluded because there was little knowledge or experience of surveying to inform a wind farm proposal. The guidance documents that did exist (principally the “Eurobats” guidance and Natural England’s guidance notes (TIN051 and TIN059)) are quite open-ended with regard to survey methods and effort and there are discrepancies between them.