Ecological Considerations Prior to Construction
In our October post, we looked at the early stage involvement of ecologists when designing and planning construction projects (First Steps in Ecological Assessment for Construction and Development). For many in the construction industry, the first involvement with an ecologist will come later in the project, once planning permission, or other relevant consent, has been obtained, and works are about to start. So, what are some of the ecological considerations prior to construction, and which actions can be taken to ensure your project runs smoothly and complies with wildlife legislation?
Complying with conditions
For projects which have planning consent there may be conditions which are required to be discharged. This could be the production of specific ecological mitigation plans, or compliance with plans already produced. Typically documents such as Biodiversity Mitigation and Enhancement Plans (BMEPs) or Landscape and Ecology Mitigation Plans (LEMPs), outline the steps required to ensure ecological mitigation and enhancement measures are implemented, and wildlife legislation adhered to. Some of the recommendations may include:
- Areas to be safeguarded during demolition and construction (e.g. tree and watercourse protection measures)
- A work schedule ensuring ecological impacts are avoided (e.g. removal of nesting bird habitat outside of the bird nesting season)
- Sensitive methods of works (e.g. hand removal of roofing materials)
- Wildlife exclusions (or translocations)
- Supervision of works by an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW)
- Requirement to create new habitat (e.g. creation of ponds or installation of bird and bat boxes)
- Sensitive lighting plans to avoid disturbance to nocturnal species during construction
- Control or eradication of invasive plant species
In addition to plans for ecological protection and enhancement measures, specific wildlife licences may be required. These are typically issued by the relevant National Agency (e.g. in England this is Natural England). Wildlife licences are mostly issued for certain species where an activity is identified to breach wildlife legislation (such as damage of a bat roost). Licensing procedures cover various pieces of legislation and an array of protected species, including bats, great crested newts, dormice, water voles and badgers.
Usually, licences allowing activities to take place during construction are only granted once planning permission (or other relevant consent) is obtained. The licence may stipulate works are undertaken using specific methodologies or at certain times of year to avoid harm and will often ensure suitable habitat remains for that species (sometimes through provision of replacement habitat). Licences are legal documents and following their terms of issue is important to ensure the project and those involved are legally compliant.
The importance of good communication
Whether the ecological considerations prior to construction are covered by planning conditions or wildlife licenses, it’s important ecological requirements are properly programmed within construction timetables, communicated to all parties involved and managed throughout the project.
Construction projects (even small-scale) will involve multiple disciplines and trades who may be involved in delivering successful ecological mitigation and enhancement; such as demolition and groundwork contractors, landscapers and builders. It’s extremely important the relevant ecological information from documents and licences reaches those delivering the works ‘on the ground’. The importance of ecologists being on site to deliver toolbox talks, install information posters and check ecological mitigation measures is of great value.
- Understand the ecological requirements of your project ensuring consents are complied with
- Schedule applications for wildlife licences and seasonal mitigation works in advance
- Communicate ecological requirements effectively to all involved
Actioning these considerations will result in a project that is compliant with consents or licences and delivered on time. Crucially it will ensure the project has meaningful benefits to biodiversity, by implementing effective protection and enhancement measures.
Adam Bratt – Principal Ecologist