Case Studies

Habitat & Protected Species Surveys for a Proposed Ground-Mounted Solar Array in South Oxfordshire

Client: Renewable Energy Developer

Our ecology team were instructed in 2014 to undertake an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey for a c.50ha greenfield site proposed for a ground-mounted solar array with generating capacity of up to 25MW. Land within the site boundaries was predominantly under arable cultivation, but also included areas of rough grassland and a network of ditches, hedgerows and linear woodlands. Five ponds were present within 500m of the proposal site, including one pond within 20m, and we recommended that surveys should be carried out to establish whether the ponds were used by Great Crested Newts for breeding…

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    We use Urban Edge Environmental for ecological appraisal services for our renewable energy projects across the UK, and have always found them extremely professional and able to meet tight timescales on site visits and reporting. More importantly, they are able to unpick complex ecological issues that allow a sensible route forwards for our developments. Thanks for all your help these last few years.

    Guy Manners-Spencer, Ecotec World Ltd
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Approach

The following techniques were applied:

  • Egg searches – submerged vegetation was checked for folded leaves
  • Dusk torchlight surveys – searching for newts using high-powered torches
  • Bottle-trapping – traps placed around the pond edges in the evenings and checked the following mornings for great crested newts

Outcome

No Great Crested Newts were recorded and there was considered to be a negligible risk of impacts to this species. The Phase 1 report nonetheless set out a range recommendations to reduce wider ecological impacts, including:

  • Security fencing design to ensure site permeability to mammals
  • Precautionary working methods to avoid impacts to reptiles
  • Standard construction phase mitigation measures to prevent impacts to trees, nesting birds, mammals, and ecological light pollution
  • Habitat creation, including: wildflower meadow planting; nectar-bearing climbers on the security fence; native species hedgerow enhancement; hibernacula for amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles; and a Biodiversity Management Plan for ongoing site maintenance.

The site subsequently received planning permission and the installation is due to come on line in spring 2015. 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.