BSG Ecology was contracted by BAM Construction to discharge pre-commencement ecological conditions and secure a European Protected Species Mitigation Licence to allow a flagship new school in Powys to be built in accordance with project timelines. We successfully secured the licence following liaison with nature conservation stakeholders, and were retained to provide ecological clerk of works support during its implementation. The outcome has been a project that has delivered biodiversity gain for great crested newts, achieved a rating of BREEAM excellent, and provided an enhanced environment alongside a state of the art educational facility.
The main ecological challenge associated with the development of the site was the presence of a medium-sized population of great crested newts in a series of ponds directly adjacent to the site boundary. This had been established through a standard suite of surveys ahead of our involvement in the project.
The construction timeline of the project was tight and linked to the funding programme. BSG’s initial challenge was to consult with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (BBNPA) and Natural Resources Wales to agree appropriate mitigation for loss of terrestrial habitat for the newts, and to develop a series of measures designed to minimise the potential for effects on the conservation status of the species during the construction of the site. BBNPA also reduced the number of ecological pre-commencement conditions, instead opting for ‘within 6 months of the commencement of the development works’ conditions instead. Both elements were fundamental to securing a European Protected Species Licence for the construction works.
Agreed mitigation measures included hand searching any areas with refuge opportunities, fencing the construction footprint (which was a close mown sports field), temporary site access for all site traffic over a ‘newt grid’ and torchlight surveys of the area inside the fence. In conjunction with the GCN licencing discussions, we worked closely with the project team, led by Asbri Planning to discharge other ecological conditions. These included the delivery of an Biodiversity Mitigation, Enhancement and Management Scheme in which grassland creation and management proposals, measures to enhance the site for bats and breeding birds, and pond / hibernacula creation (to enhance the site for great crested newts) were detailed.
We were retained during the construction phase to ensure the conditions of the European Protected Species Licence were adhered to, and to provide ecological advice and support to the project construction team. This required considerable flexibility, and an ability to identify solutions to problems as they emerged. We developed an excellent working relationship with the site team of BAM Construction and Heart of Wales Property Services during the course of the work. Regular liaison with ecologists at Powys County Council and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority was also completed to ensure they were satisfied with the approach to addressing construction phase conditions and to ensure a coherent approach with a neighbouring highways scheme. This culminated in staff from both authorities attending a newt survey training session we were running for our staff.
Brecon High School opened in December 2019, and provides a state of the art educational facility for 750 pupils. The project has also delivered a large purpose-built new pond set in an area that is developing as excellent terrestrial habitat, and a number of hibernacula situated close to both the new and the established ponds. These measures will increasing the resilience of the great crested newt population. Wider ecological measures, including the creation of species-rich grassland have helped the project achieve a BREEAM excellent rating, and can also be used to help increase the connection of the children attending the school to biodiversity.
“Asbri Planning worked alongside BSG Ecology in the promotion of a planning application for the development of a new high school in Brecon, within the Brecon Beacons National Park. The site was used by great crested newts, requiring a thorough and co-ordinated approach to survey, assessment and mitigation, all of which was professionally undertaken by BSG Ecology in an efficient, timely and cost effective manner. I would have no hesitation in working with BSG Ecology again and I have recommended their services to other clients.”
Barrie Davies, Director, Asbri Planning.
“Brecon High School was a regionally significant development project for BAM, and one that will provide a lasting legacy for the community of Brecon. This project was the first that BAM has undertaken for Powys County Council through the SEWSCAP 2 Framework. The project met all stage gate dates and KPIs and completed on time and to budget in October 2019.
Project challenges included National Parks Planning consent outside the development boundary, significant archaeology surveys and sign-off processes and ecological issues with Great Crested Newts (requiring licensing from Natural Resources Wales), nesting birds and bats.
A key consultant through the pre-construction and construction stages was BSG Ecology; the main ecological issue with regard to planning consent and construction was great crested newts. BSG developed a close working relationship with the project team that ensured works progressed effectively in conjunction with agreed measures to mitigate impacts on the newt population and breeding grounds. We would be delighted to work with BSG and in particular, Rachel and Owain again in future.”
Mark Roberts, Senior Design Manager, BAM Construction Ltd