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Case Study

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) in Oxfordshire

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A client in Oxford recently approached us to help them with a development they had planned. Our client wanted to carry out some significant works on their property, which involved a complete demolition of one building, a partial demolition of another building, removing part of a car park on their property and finally, constructing a three storey building with a basement car park, and landscaping a new communal garden – quite a bit of work!

Arbtech was established in 2005, and have been operating in the area for many years. We’ve carried out a wide range of surveys including our tree surveys, newt surveys, and bat surveys in Oxford, Banbury, Kidlington, Witney, Thame, and Wallingford.

About the Area

Oxford is a major tourist attraction, education hub, and is of course home to one of the most famous and oldest universities in the world. Oxford is one of the most visited cities in the UK, and is set within the most rural county in the South East, Oxfordshire; known for its beautiful countryside and market towns. Latterly, this means that where development takes place, there is the potential for impacts on legally protected habitats and species.

Survey Background

In order for this development to receive planning permission, our client was asked to carry out a preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA). Local planning authorities ask for these surveys because they want to know if the site of proposed development is being used by species of plants and animals that may be legally protected. This survey used to be (and is sometimes still referred to as) an “extended phase 1 habitat survey”. During this survey, our ecologist will highlight habitats and species of value that are on or within influencing distance of the site, or confirm their likely-absence.

A PEA has 2 parts – the desk study, which includes procuring historical records of protected species or habitats in the area from a local biological records centre, and the site visit, which involves a trained and suitably qualified ecologist visiting the survey area, and conducting a study to determine the site’s suitability for animal species, such as great crested newts, and bats, as well as any plant species that need to be taken into consideration.

Our Surveyor

The Arbtech ecological consultant for this project was Lauren Fear. Lauren is a masters-qualified and experienced ecologist. Lauren has been working for us full time for around 2 years, and worked for us as a sub-contractor for three years before that. Lauren undertakes many of our bat surveys and ecology surveys throughout and around Oxfordshire, and always gets great feedback from our clients for her friendly manner, and clear, precise reports.

Survey Method

The first thing Lauren did was to conduct the desk study that informed her about the following:

  • The Landscape structure
  • Habitats and species of Principal Importance
  • Designated sites
  • Information on the surrounding area, including waterbodies

Lauren then scheduled a visit to the site so that she could inspect the area and assess the ecological value of the site, and the impacts of the development. The survey area comprised all land that will be impacted by the proposals. The methodology for the survey was based on the best practice publication Phase 1 habitat survey methodology (published by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, 2010).

Lauren found that one of the buildings to be demolished had the potential to be used as a bat roost so a Preliminary Roost Assessment bat survey was recommended. After inspecting the other buildings and land, Lauren determined that there was no likelihood of the site being used by any other protected species, and that the relative ecological value of the site was very low (excluding for bats). As this site was located in a town centre and surrounded by residential and commercial properties, Lauren also concluded that the site ecologically isolated from good quality foraging and commuting habitats.

Survey Results

Following the PEA, our client was pleased to hear that there were no major roadblocks identified, and the only issue was that a bat survey would be required to make sure that no bat roosts were impacted upon by the demolition of one of the buildings. A bat survey was promptly booked in and Lauren undertook that work as well. After conducting a Preliminary Roost Assessment, Lauren was able to report that the buildings previously identified as potentially being suitable for bats showed no sign of bat activity and had very low roost suitability. Our client was happy to hear this, and is now well underway with their development. The whole project is due to be completed in 8 months’ time, and the client has already recommended us to another developer local to Oxford! Win-win.

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