Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Wild Development - A talk by Jon Riley of The Ecology Consultancy

Jonathan Say, Consultant

On the 15th of October 2014 Jon Riley, of Temple’s sister company The Ecology Consultancy (TEC), gave an interesting and informative briefing on wildlife and development.

The talk began by looking at construction impacts on wildlife. TEC have significant experience in this area through their work on projects like the construction of the A120 in Essex, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the East London Line (Underground and Overground). Jon shared his wealth of insights on issues such as direct habitat and species loss, fragmentation, disturbance, introduction of invasive species and landscape design and management.

Jon covered the major legislation relating to ecological assessment, an area that TEC has extensive expertise in, given their involvement as expert witness for projects like the Local Plans for the London Borough of Lewisham and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. This section was peppered with interesting examples of protected sites and species related to the many projects Jon has been involved with. I was saddened to hear of the decline of the UK and European protected white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) in the south east due to invasive species introduction and associated diseases (crayfish plague). It highlighted the great importance of using ecological experts to limit the impact of major developments, as the removal of a single species can have huge impacts to wider ecosystems. The example of the decline of bumble bees in the UK, due to impacts such as changes in agricultural technique, shows the potential implications to human life of a single species loss http://bumblebeeconservation.org/.

The presentation illustrated both UK and European legislation, the interrelation with the UK planning system and covered the specialist area of protected species licencing and ecological surveying which is a discipline in which TEC are greatly involved. For example, on HS2 Phase 1 Environmental Impact Assessment (London to West Midlands) TEC have undertaken over 600 surveys to date this year!

Jon highlighted the potential cost of getting it wrong. A successful prosecution for a wildlife offence may lead to a £5000 fine or six months’ imprisonment per offence, which in the case of a bat roost is clearly a substantial impact to any project. This again highlights the importance for developers to utilise competent ecological consultants like TEC in order to avoid these impacts.

Finally, Jon covered the fascinating area of creative ecology or habitat enhancement and how projects can have positive ecological benefit if competent ecologists are engaged to plan out these potential habitats. This covered green roofs, green walls, integrated nesting sites, vertical beaches (very relevant to enhancement along the Thames wall), green bridges, grassland creation and much more. TEC, together with our associated company the Green Roof Consultancy (GRC), are leaders in the field of habitat creation. Notable examples include Canary Wharf’s green roof strategy and Barclays Headquarters in London. GRC were the authors of the Greater London Authority’s ‘Living Roofs and Walls – the technical report to support the new London plan’.

Clearly TEC are leaders in the field of ecological assessment, and together with Temple and the Green Roof Consultancy, we can offer a range of high-level expertise in environmental and ecological consultancy, planning advice and habitat creation relevant to wildlife and development.

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