Ecology

Planning a development?  

Every year millions of pounds are spent on sites for development, only to discover serious hidden complications when it comes to gaining planning permission – because the land or buildings are home to legally protected wildlife species.

  • A pre-purchase ecological survey could save you from making a very expensive mistake.
  • An ecological strategy can make the difference between planning permission being refused and your project becoming viable.

With our team of external experienced ecological consultants, HELMRIG LTD can quickly assess whether you need a site survey and/or mitigation work for your development scheme. A simple chat – in confidence and without obligation – could make a significant difference to your project’s outcome.

Environmental impact assessment

We have extensive experience of developing ecological statements for environmental impact assessments.

Our services include:

  • full project management
  • completion of all baseline site assessments plus any required protected habitat and species survey work
  • identification and evaluation of the ecological impact of your project
  • ecological mitigation and compensation
  • consultation with all stakeholders from an early stage to save time and money.

 

Bat surveys

All UK bat species are protected by law and it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure, handle or capture a bat, or to damage, destroy or obstruct any place that a bat uses for shelter or protection.

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Our Ecologists are licensed to undertake bat surveys across the UK. All our surveys are in line with current guidelines from statutory bodies, ensuring methodology is in line with best practice.

 

Newt surveys

Our Team of External Consultants hold all the necessary licences to carry out full great crested newt surveys across the UK using a range of survey techniques, including bottle trapping, torching, egg searches and drift fencing.

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Breeding Bird Surveys

  • All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) whilst they are actively nesting or roosting.
  • It is also an offence to take or destroy any wild bird eggs.
  • In addition, bird species listed under Schedule 1(3) of the Act receive extra protection.

Timing of surveys

The ‘Bird Nesting Season’ is officially from February until August (Natural England) and it is recommended that vegetation works (tree or hedge cutting) or site clearance should be done outside of the nesting season. However, in reality the nesting period may start before this and extend beyond it, in some cases. The busiest time for nesting birds is from 1st March until 31st July and of course varies according to species, etc.

As contractors we must aim to avoid impact to nesting birds and infringement of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and breaching the European Habitats Directive 1992/Nesting Birds Directive.

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When tree or vegetation clearance work has to be undertaken during the nesting season, a pre works survey needs to be carried out by a suitably competent person. As a general rule, it should be assumed that birds will be nesting in trees, and as contactors it is down to us to assess, record and confirm that any works carried out in the management of trees and other vegetation has not disturbed actively nesting birds.

There is also a small group of species, including barn owls, which are able to breed throughout the year, and active nests of these species can be found in most months. We can provide advice both on survey timing for all species, and on the need for nesting bird checks in any month, depending on the habitats available.

Botanical Surveys

Our services

Helmrig have been undertaking a wide range of botanical surveys for 14 years for both initial and more detailed assessments. These include:botanical

 

  • Phase 1 habitat/land use surveys
  • River corridor surveys
  • Hedgerow surveys
    These would normally form part of an initial site assessment, but may be used alone, for example as part of a biodiversity audit; to monitor improvements to river corridor quality, following management; or to identify or monitor BAP habitats, respectively.
  • Phase 2 plant community surveys
  • National Vegetation Classification (NVC) surveys
    These two are closely linked, and either may follow an initial Phase 1 survey to provide more information on the plant community and thus assess their biodiversity value, either to identify potential Local Wildlife Sites, or as part of an ecological baseline assessment.
  • Aquatic macrophyte surveys
  • Fixed quadrat monitoring
    These are just two examples of a number of forms of botanical monitoring, normally undertaken to demonstrate the (potential) effects of changes due to management, mitigation measures, natural succession, etc.
  • Invasive plant surveys and advice on treatment
  • Japanese knotweed control by spraying with herbicide

Timing of surveys

A highly experienced ecologist can carry out an initial site assessment at almost any time of year, other than under snow cover, since they will be trained to recognise vegetative grasses and basal leaves of perennials and to identify woody species by their bark and winter buds. This will allow most plant communities to be recognised, and recommendation for further survey to be provided where necessary.

However, the more detailed surveys need to be carried out during the growing period of the target species. This may be spring (March-May) for winter annuals (eg on heathland) or late summer (July-September) for aquatics, although most species can be recorded during May-September at least. For a small number of species timing can be more sensitive, and senior staff can advise on this.

Why undertake Botanical Surveys?

Although only a small number of very rare species have statutory protection, a greater number are the subject of local and national Biodiversity Action Plans, and particular hedges may fulfil the criteria set out in the Hedgerow Regulations. Correct identification of plant communities is also critical to identifying a number of habitats which have Habitat Action Plans, and monitoring, sometimes quite tiny, changes in these communities may be similarly critical when determining the success or otherwise of changes in management such as grazing, mowing or stalking.