Ecology & Planning

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.
An often forgotten part of delivering the aims of a conservation project or a conservation site is telling the wider-world about what’s going on.  Getting the interpretation right is essential in the promotion of an organisation’s commitment to biodiversity, and can help to raise that organisation’s environmental profile.
Proposals to significantly change the planning and regulatory systems are currently under consideration; however, any new approach in respect of ecology is unlikely to be resolved quickly.
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).
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.
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.
Baker Shepherd Gillespie (BSG) has worked with local authorities for fourteen years, developing an extensive portfolio. Over this time our nationwide team of over thirty ecologists has widened and deepened its understanding of local authority needs in an ever-changing administrative, funding and policy environment.
BSG Partner James Gillespie has co-authored a paper on ‘Applying Connectivity Mapping to Spatial Planning in Wales’. Connectivity maps are key elements of a wider framework of actions to improve connectivity and protect biodiversity. There is strong political interest in this approach in Wales and a drive to include concepts of ecological connectivity within spatial planning at local and national levels to contribute to a broader green infrastructure. This paper reviews the overall approach in Wales to date and reports on the findings of studies in South East Wales.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 have been amended again, with the new regulations coming into force at the end of January. The main changes affecting ecologists and developers are that the guidance notes provided by the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations will now have legal force and will have to be taken into account by the courts.
This judicial review case addresses how local planning authorities (LPAs) discharge their statutory duty under Regulation 3(4) of the Conservation Regulations (1994) to have regard to the requirements of the Habitats Directive in the exercise of their functions. The case focuses on how LPAs should approach the discharge of this duty in coming to planning decisions and in particular the need to properly consider the three tests set out in the Conservation Regulations that should be considered when harm to European Protected Species (EPS) is likely.