For many years, the banks of the river Dee in Chester have been part of the city: for launching boats both pleasure and commercial; forming a particularly lethal obstacle on Chester Golf Course; for promenading; as a backdrop to Chester City Walls and Tower; and, surprisingly, as part of people’s back gardens. In fact, almost the whole northern/eastern bank of the Dee opposite Chester Meadows is occupied by gardens (the rest is a public park). As the river is also a site of European importance for nature conservation, this creates some interesting paperwork when people want to remodel their garden space.
view over Chester Meadows and the river Dee from the study site
Anyone who has ever worked on an Environmental Statement for an outline application knows that they tend to be a bit, well, vague. Usually, the local authority will let this ride because they know they can get all the detail they need at the reserved matters or detailed application stage. The flip side of this is that it’s not OK to just recycle the outline ES at the detailed application stage. One really does need to actually do it properly – unfortunately, sometimes this seems to pass the client by and they may need some persuading to invest in a proper ecological impact assessment. That’s what happened with this project. Continue reading
This was one of the best CIEEM conferences I have ever been to. Really interesting talks and a roomful of friends and former colleagues to catch up with. If you’re not familiar with biodiversity offsetting, the idea behind it is to formalise what most ecologists do already in situations where loss of habitat can’t be avoided – we look for off site compensation and aim to recreate the lost habitat or improve existing habitat currently in poor condition to try and compensate for the adverse impact of the project. Have a look at DEFRA’s webpage on it here to find out more about current policy and the six pilot areas where offsetting is being tried out.
Posted in Training
I have recently completed two chapters for the Environmental Statement of a major transport infrastructure project. I’m not allowed to say which one, as I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement, but let’s just say it is a very big scheme indeed with lots of very interesting ecological receptors, and has been quite a challenge to work on. I’ll update this post to give more detail as and when I’m allowed to !
I’ve become involved in giving botanical advice on Carnedd Wen, a rather interesting forested site in mid-Wales which is proposed for a large wind farm. Some years ago, the blanket bogs on site were mostly afforested, leaving pockets of excellent habitat sandwiched between, frankly, grim closed-canopy conifer plantation. The proposal for the site involves large-scale habitat restoration, the details of which are yet to be worked out, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to have some input, which would be really exciting. I’m hoping, though, that I won’t have to spend too much more time getting covered in spruce needles, algae and general crud whilst pushing through scratchy trees! That was hard work even by my standards.
It’s one of those sites where something surprising will always turn up. Previous bird surveys of the site had turned up no sightings of hen harrier despite it being a former breeding site for the species. I went to site twice and what did I see both times ? – you guessed it ! But I must point out that both times I went to site were in winter, so my sightings aren’t as interesting as you might think – hen harriers spread out quite widely during winter to make the most of the available foraging opportunities.
The proposal is currently being examined at Public Inquiry – visit the developers’ website to find out more.
I have a lot of experience in writing chapters for Environmental Statements and in 2012 I spent about six weeks spread out across the year writing chapters on behalf of a local consultancy run by some friends. They were so successful in winning new work that they had trouble getting it all done, and that’s when I was called in to help out. Instead of working at home, it made sense for me to go into their office, which made a nice change from working alone and I got to spend time with my friends and their staff who are all lovely and super-keen. And we met the deadlines. A win-win situation !
I was commissioned to undertake Phase 1 habitat and NVC survey of an upland fringe site in South Wales. The site is adjacent to an existing wind farm and additional turbines are proposed on the land I surveyed.
Much of the site was occupied by valley mire and marsh habitat included in a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, which made for an interesting if wet survey – it rained heavily on the first day and I spent the rest of the survey squelching through very wet peaty hollows between tussocks of purple moor-grass !
Fortunately, the proposed scheme avoids almost all of the wet habitats on the site, so I’m hopeful that the ecological effects of the project will be minimal in terms of habitats and flora.