BSG Ecology worked with Broxbourne Borough Council to provide an evidence base for four ‘Areas of Search’ to be allocated for development in their emerging Local Plan.
The four Areas of Search covered a combined area of about 7km2 with much of the land divided into small fields bounded by thick hedgerows, interspersed with clusters of residential development and roads. Our brief also involved appraisals of 35 Local Wildlife Sites that lie within and around the four Areas of Search.
BSG Ecology’s Role in the Project
We carried out an extended Phase 1 habitat survey of the four areas of search to identify features of ecological value. Many of the fields were under individual private ownership so the first stage of the process was to gain permission from a long list of owners and occupiers. The survey was carried out by two surveyors over the course of one week and all areas for which access permission was granted were mapped according to Phase 1 methodology and inspected for the presence of protected species. We then provided a provisional assessment of the likely impact of development on these areas, based on the information collected and conceptual master plans provided by the council.
BSG Ecology’s brief for the Local Wildlife Sites was to survey each one in detail and assess whether they continued to meet the requirements of the selection criteria set out in guidelines for Local Sites for Hertfordshire. These were published by the Hertfordshire Local Wildlife Sites Partnership. We were also asked to assess the condition of each site, comment on whether the current management was appropriate and, if not, provide recommendations for appropriate management.
Most of the sites were valued for their habitats – principally neutral and acid grassland, woodland or a combination of all three. Four sites were designated because of the presence of protected species. For these sites, the suitability of the habitats were assessed for the relevant species and advice was provided regarding a need for further dedicated surveys to confirm the assessment of suitability. Twenty-nine sites met the selection criteria, one was recommended for de-notification, and four required further survey.
During the Phase 1 survey of the Areas of Search, two additional areas of grassland were identified that met the criteria for neutral grassland Local Wildlife Sites. We surveyed these in more detail and recommended future designation.
The Phase 1 and Local Wildlife Site Surveys were mapped onto a GIS, which the Council is planning to make available on its website as a webmap. We also created an additional three-colour layer on the GIS giving a relative conservation value to each area surveyed, based on measurable criteria. Sites or areas that were classed as red were considered to be of high ecological value at the time of survey and are likely to present a reasonable constraint to development (for example an existing Local Wildlife Site). Those classed as amber were of some ecological value based on the surveys undertaken (for example, veteran trees or a priority habitat was present). Areas classed as green were generally of lower relative ecological value and likely to present fewer constraints to development based on the surveys undertaken to date. The aim was to provide a quick guide to help those involved in the forward planning process.
This study is being used to inform the Council’s preparatory work for analysing and allocating sites for future development and for shaping policies within the Local Plan. As such, the information collected and the assessments made have necessarily been rigorously carried out according to objective and defensible methods and criteria.