Case Studies

Habitat and Protected Species Surveys and Biodiversity Offsetting for a Proposed Education Development in Buckinghamshire

Client: Public Sector Client

We were commissioned in 2014/2015 to provide ecological surveys and impact assessments for two proposed education developments on greenfield land.  Following initial Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys we recommended that further protected species surveys were required for great crested newts and reptiles…

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Approach

The Phase 1 survey consisted of a desk study and a walkover of the site.  The desk study assessed records of protected species and designated sites within 2 km of the application site.  The walkover survey classified every parcel of land in accordance with the JNCC (2010) habitat types, and assessed the site’s potential to support protected species. The Phase 1 survey highlighted the need for further reptile and great crested newt surveys due to the presence of suitable habitat on-site and ecological records for these species within 2km of the application site. Great crested newt surveys were conducted to determine whether they were present within the application site.  They targeted five ponds within 500m of the development area, which Habitat Suitability Index assessments had shown were suitable for breeding newts.  Six surveys were conducted using egg searches, bottle trapping and torchlight surveys to determine whether newts were present and establish population estimates in each pond. Rough semi improved grassland and woodland edge habitats within the application site presented suitable habitats for widespread reptiles.  Surveys for this group involved targeted transects and searches of artificial refuges over the course of seven visits to site.

Our Advice

Although suitable habitat was present for reptiles, none were recorded during surveys and it was concluded that they were likely to be absent from site.  Great crested newts were recorded in all ponds within 500m of the application site and a “Small” population was considered to be present.  However, no negative impacts were predicted for any of the breeding ponds or non-breeding aquatic habitats, and the distance of the site from breeding ponds resulted in a low likelihood of their presence within the construction zone.

Biodiversity Offsetting

We subsequently assessed the ecological impact of the proposal in line with the Biodiversity Impact Assessment Metric piloted by Defra, using the Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull impact calculator.  The development as proposed would have been likely to have a high residual ecological impact resulting from the loss of rough grassland and dense continuous scrub, and habitats for breeding birds. We advised on design changes to the proposed landscaping plans to offset the loss of habitats of significant value.  We recommended that development proposals included creating new areas of habitat of high ecological value within the site, such as hedgerows and wetland, and successfully demonstrated that this would significantly reduce the scale of impacts.  Other enhancements were also recommended to improve the site’s ecological value and address the residual impacts of development.

Outcome

The planning applications were successfully granted consent. If you’re thinking of submitting an application for a site in your portfolio, and want to know the site’s ecological value or the implications for development, please contact us now.