BSG Ecology provided ecological support to Monmouthshire County Council to assist them in efficiently progressing their planning caseload. Advice on over 100 planning applications was provided between November 2020 and March 2021 by a BSG staff member working on behalf of the local planning authority.
During winter 2020/21 Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) required significant ecological support to enable them to manage their planning case load. Ecological advice was mainly required with regard to small-scale residential, leisure and tourism-related development proposals. Following a competitive tendering process, BSG Ecology was appointed to provide the support needed. Senior Ecologist Sarah Joscelyne provided up to three days of input per week for an initial period of three months, with the contract extended to five months due to the continued volume of planning applications.
The challenge for Sarah was to rapidly familiarise herself with new systems, ensure her advice was both useful to applicants and consistent with that of the wider MCC ecology team, and assist the team by efficiently processing a steady stream of applications; the notional target was to provide ecological comment on three applications per day.
MCC provided initial support and training in the use of their systems and in the internal guidance available to inform planning responses. This initial training, along with ongoing support from the MCC team, helped Sarah to rapidly settle into the role.
Each application considered required a review to determine whether sufficient ecological information had been provided to allow approval, and to inform appropriate planning conditions. Where insufficient ecological information was considered to have been provided, constructive advice was given to the applicant on the additional information required, referencing relevant industry standard ecological survey and assessment guidance and planning policy as relevant. While feedback provided was in writing, some cases required discussion with consultant ecologists working on behalf of the applicant and with the wider MCC planning team in order to answer questions and formulate appropriate advice.
Over the five months she worked on behalf of MCC, Sarah commented on well over 100 planning applications.
The experience of working with the MCC team gave Sarah some very useful insight into the planning process from the local planning authority perspective, and contributed significantly to her professional development. During the course of the work she (and several others in the MCC team) received some unsolicited positive written feedback from applicants recognising her efficiency in commenting on their application, which was much appreciated and a reflection of her hard work.
‘We were extremely pleased with the support that BSG Ecology was able to deliver on this Development Management support project. Sarah’s professional attitude and high quality of work allowed Monmouthshire County Council to continue to consider ecological issues on planning applications at an extremely challenging time. Alongside the high quality responses, provision of clear updates on progress and case management was an invaluable output.’
Kate Stinchcombe, Senior Biodiversity and Ecology Officer, Monmouthshire County Council
‘I greatly enjoyed working with the team at Monmouthshire County Council and applying my ecological knowledge to planning applications. As ecological consultants we are normally on the other side of the planning system, but working as a Biodiversity and Ecology officer was a great opportunity to see things from a local planning authority perspective. The insight gained has enabled me to refine my own ecological outputs.’
Sarah Joscelyne, Senior Ecologist