BSG Ecology was asked by Sero Homes to provide ecological support for their proposal to build 35 Zero carbon homes at Parc Hadau, Pontardawe. We undertook early consultation with the local planning authority, completed a range of ecological survey work, helped negotiate appropriate mitigation and compensation solutions (including the basis of an off-site compensation package), and produced the ecological impact assessment for the proposals. The scheme is currently in planning.
The main challenge was that while the Parc Hadau site is allocated for development in the Neath Port Talbot Local Development Plan, it is also a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), a local non-statutory designation. The habitats of greatest value within the site are marshy grassland and wet woodland. Both are habitats of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in Wales, and our detailed botanical surveys showed that both remain of SINC quality. In addition, ancient semi-natural woodland is present directly south and east of the site boundary. Protected species surveys established that small populations of common lizard and slow worm, a bat community typical of the area, and breeding birds were also present.
BSG Ecology initiated early consultation with the Neath Port Talbot County Ecologist. This resulted in constructive on-going dialogue with regard to the scope of works needed to support the planning application, and ultimately the potential mitigation and compensation solution for the site. The resulting design incorporated the retention and enhancement of scrub around the edges of the site, providing a dark (unlit) corridor. The scrub will be managed to increase its structural diversity and provide a buffer to the nearby ancient woodland: a mixture of glades, open and dense scrub will be created, and this will provide habitat for bats and breeding birds, as well as re-located reptiles.
Further liaison with Neath Port Talbot identified the potential to compensate the loss of the wet woodland and marshy grassland (as required by planning policy) through the positive management of a parcel of land a few kilometres from the site, which the council were very helpful in bringing to the client’s attention. This ‘compensation land’, unmanaged for years and now overgrown and losing its ecological interest, offers the opportunity to reinstate marshy grassland and improve the condition of the drier grassland (a further habitat of principal importance) through a combination of scrub removal, control and grazing / cutting of the sward, and implementation of long-term active management. The details of this are still being worked on, but the broad management principles were set out as part of the ecological assessment work.
A planning application for the site was submitted by Sero Homes to Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council in October 2019. A planning decision is awaited.
Jim McArdell of Sero Homes has commented, “BSG Ecology have been involved from project inception. They have engaged actively and constructively with the local authority ecologist and with the Sero Homes team and its other consultants, to help us through the planning process, and been proactive in briefing us about emerging ecological issues. Their inputs have been completed to time and budget and we are very happy with the service provided.”
Middle Image: Illustration of the central gardens for Parc Hadau courtesy of Loyn + Co Architects