On 4 February 2015 BSG Ecologists Jim Fairclough and Hannah Bilston delivered a half day seminar on Protected Species¹ to The Parks Trust², the independent charity that owns and cares for many of the parks and green spaces in Milton Keynes. This green space adds up to approximately 5,000 acres of river valleys, woodlands, lakesides, parks and landscaped areas alongside the main roads – about 25 percent of the new city area.
The Parks Trust has developed its own Biodiversity Action Plan in order to identify and focus biodiversity management measures at the local level. These include legally protected species, some of which are encountered on a frequent basis by estate managers and grounds maintenance staff. This has the potential to expose The Parks Trust to risk of breaking the law, for example, if undertaking activities at certain times of the year which might increase the chances of killing or injury of protected species. Accordingly, the purpose of the seminar was to disseminate to staff involved in the day to day upkeep of the estate, the types of protected species likely to be encountered, and how to go about their routine activities in a sensitive way that does not expose them to risk of breaching legislation and subsequent prosecution.
The seminar was well attended, with over 30 estate maintenance staff, including volunteers, showing a keen interest. A group session on how to identify bat roost potential in trees was particularly useful to those staff regularly involved in arboricultural works. It was also pleasing to learn that The Parks Trust is already implementing a range of mitigation approaches and best practice to avoid conflict with legally protected species, such as the cutting of hedgerows outside the nesting bird season. We were able to suggest additional recommendations as to where biodiversity enhancement might be achieved, and at low cost, for example through the creation of habitat piles close to wetland areas, for egg laying grass snake.
At the end of the event, which was organised by Head of Operations, Rob Rieke, we were asked if a similar seminar could be organised for The Parks Trust contractors and volunteers.
¹ Species afforded different levels of protection under European and UK Law were covered.