Biodiversity, Ecology and the Environment in South West England
Home to the counties Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, the South West region is predominantly rural and takes the lead in terms of the number of animal habitats and wildlife sites present.
A large proportion of valuable habitats reside in the South West region. For example, the region houses 62% of the UK’s calcareous grassland, 57% of the UK’s flower rich pastures, 37% of the UK’s saline lagoons, 25% of the UK’s lowland heathland, 20% of the UK’s ancient woodland, and the highest ratio of coastline to land area of any region in the UK.
Current protected species in the South West include 25 that are internationally important and more than 700 that are a concern to national conservation. Additionally, 34 species are solely identified in the UK, and 11 species are solely identified in the region. Looking at specific animal species, 70% of the UK’s population of greater horseshoe bats and 25% of the UK’s population of nightjar birds are situated in the South West.
As well as a 44% decline in the population of farmland birds between 1970 and 2000, dangers to ecology in South West England include climate change, environmental pollution, habitat fragmentation and isolation, land-use change, non-native species introduction, and unnecessarily harmful fishing methods.
Overlap Between Ecology and Development
Boasting a wealth of undeveloped countryside areas, many developers perceive South West England as a priority area to stage planning projects – making sense of it emerging as the most expensive region to buy land. Operating in a location with such a high standard of biodiversity and ecology, however, will often mean that local authorities will focus on conservation, preservation and protection of ecological assets in an effort to avoid unwarranted damage to biodiversity value and the environment as a whole.
Local councils across South West England consist of Bristol City Council, Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, Dorset Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Somerset County Council, Wiltshire Council and the wide range of respective vibrant city, borough, district and town councils within the seven South West counties.
Environmental policies that apply to the region focus on the subjects of:
- Air quality
- Climate change
- Cumulative effects
- Eco-friendly landscape architecture and engineering design
- Landscape architecture
- Marine litter
- Marine protected areas
- Non-native invasive species
- Renewable energy
- Sustainable solutions
- Underwater noise
- Viable energy markets
- Water quality
A comprehensive document from the UK government offers crucial insight into these policies and how they should be applied. Specifically referring to planning projects, it states that local authorities must insist upon developers showing evidence of relevant ecology surveys on the development site any time a development proposal is likely to affect biodiversity or interact with plant or animal habitats.
Ecological Consultants Situated in the South West
For more than 15 years, the highly successful ecology team at Arbtech has stood out as a trustworthy and effective independent ecological consultancy for our full range of ecological services. Through formulating a company structure that enables full-time ecological consultants to be located across all areas of the United Kingdom, clients that need the relevant ecology surveys to guarantee adherence to rules designed to protect ecological features can be sufficiently supported wherever they are based.
Our ever expanding group of ecologists are experienced in conducting ecological surveys for an array of clients in numerous industries, and they hold the necessary accreditations and qualifications to be as capable as possible, as well as an exciting opportunity to gain licences that give them further knowledge of other areas. Other components our ecological consultants possess revolve around unique personality traits that contribute to the utmost professional and individual standards, such as a strong work ethic, the ambition to provide the best possible service, and clear communication skills.
Consultant Ecologist Merry Anderson is based in Devon, has extensive experience in ecology and wildlife conservation, and oversees many of the ecological surveys in South West England.
I’m Merry, and I cover the four main South West counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. I wanted to be on the front line of wildlife protection, so moving into ecology was a natural progression from working in conservation and wildlife education. I recently achieved my level 2 bat licence, and volunteer my free time with my local bat conservation and research group, of which I am the membership officer and treasurer.
Having the brilliant opportunity to work and support homeowners and planners to create better homes for our plants and animals is really rewarding work. There is always something new to learn and discover in this job type. I’ve had some amazing experiences in the field, and you never know what may pop up and surprise you.
Here in the South West, we are lucky to have some incredible countryside and stunning scenic views. There is no shortage of wildlife either. We have 15 of the 17 breeding bat species living here, including some of the new arrivals like the Nathusius’s pipistrelle. We are also home to some of the UK’s rarest species, like the grey long-eared bat and the Bechstein’s bat, and not forgetting our new resident population of beavers.
The loss of much of our green countryside to agriculture and development doesn’t have to mean disaster anymore. The changing climate of environmental awareness means that ecologists like me can instigate change and progress when it comes to the natural world and how we live within it.Merry Anderson, Consultant Ecologist
South West Ecological Surveys
Each and every ecology survey will be undertaken in a similar format, ensuring the highest possible standards, and prompting results that can be used to demonstrate that all ecological constraints have been identified and mitigated accordingly.
A usual starting point for ecological surveys on a development site is a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey. Over the course of this form of ecology assessment, an ecological surveyor will attend the site and make a note of all ecological features on or adjacent to the site, particularly looking for indicators of protected species of animal and valuable or invasive species of plant.
Depending on the findings from the assessment, the knowledgeable and enthusiastic ecologist will determine the most suitable next steps to guarantee that the developer remains within the rules of corresponding legislation. If, for instance, the ecological consultant finds signs that animal or plant habitats may be present on the site, they will suggest arranging further surveys that are designed to analyse the presence of the ecological assets in question.
In terms of plant surveys, assessments could include giant hogweed surveys, Himalayan balsam surveys, injurious weed surveys or Japanese knotweed surveys, and in terms of animal surveys, assessments could include badger surveys, bat surveys, bird surveys (breeding birds, nesting birds and barn owls), dormouse surveys, great crested newt surveys, otter surveys, reptile surveys or water vole surveys.
Ecology Survey Reports in Planning Applications
Immediately after completing any ecology survey, the experienced ecologist managing the process will assemble an ecology report for the attention of the developer and the planning officer of the local council. Within the ecology survey report are details of the survey in question, findings and outcomes from the assessment, and advised alterations to the site and project that will allow the development to move forwards.
The ecological surveyor’s recommendations that will enable the project to continue despite the presence of ecological assets on the site will be chosen using the mitigation hierarchy. Ranging from most to least desirable outcomes, the mitigation hierarchy features in all of our ecological and arboricultural assessments carried out by our multidisciplinary consultancy. The priority outcome would be to entirely avoid disruption to ecological features. If, at this point, it isn’t possible to stage the development away from protected species of animals and plants, the next option would be to minimise the disruption.
If the experienced and knowledgeable ecologist comes to the conclusion that it isn’t possible to avoid or reduce disruption to ecological features, they will be left with no choice but to initiate mitigation measures that will minimise the unavoidable disruption. Methods of doing this include providing construction staff with relevant training, only permitting development works at specific time periods, and changing the proposed development so certain areas are unaffected. In circumstances where even mitigation measures won’t minimise disruption to ecological features, the ecological consultant will be forced to allow for a level of biodiversity losses, before compensating by safely relocating protected species and valuable plants elsewhere on-site or off-site.
Complete with information and insight from a licensed, experienced and qualified ecologist, the ecology report will be positioned as ideal supporting evidence for granting planning permission. Simply pass the completed ecology survey report on to your local planning authority based on the location of your South West development, and the planning officer should see no reason to deny your planning application.
Contact Our South West Ecologists
Any time a planning project could potentially disrupt ecological assets such as protected animal or plant species on or near to the site, an ecology consultant would need to conduct the necessary assessments. Although the extensive number of ecological consultancies across the UK will give you a seemingly endless assortment of options, our reviews act as concrete proof that we are the strongest contender for ecology surveys.
Speaking to Arbtech directly by calling us on the number above or filling in our quote form online will enable our friendly team to provide you with a free quote. All we ask of you is that you give us as much detail as possible about your development site and planning project, as it will give us a better idea of your specifications and make your no-obligation quote as utterly accurate as possible.
Even if you are unsure of the appropriate next steps in your project, contact us and our ecological consultancy will be able to assist you with selecting the correct assessment for your needs via an advice call. Other forms of ecological services could consist of an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Preliminary Ecological Assessments, protected species surveys, invasive plant surveys and other ecology jobs in South West England.
As soon as you confirm that you are happy with the quote we send to you, we can work out a date for an assistant ecologist from our highly successful ecology team to visit your site, undertake the necessary ecological services, eliminate all ecological issues, and help you with securing planning consent for your project.