Love it or hate it, ecology is an integral part of most development projects and is becoming ever more so with changes to the myriad of legislation and planning policy around wildlife and biodiversity within the UK.
Even in the most urban of areas, many development sites will have some wildlife interest. However, the importance of their role in supporting populations of native flora and fauna, and maintaining habitat connectivity across the wider landscape, is not always obvious.
Picture the scenario. There has been an incident on site. All work in the area has been halted. The individual involved and the construction company could both be prosecuted, resulting in a fine of up to £5,000 or a six-month prison sentence. The crime? A tree felled on site was found to be a bat roost. Did you know that it is illegal to kill, capture or disturb bats, and only licensed bat-workers are allowed to enter bat roosts or to capture or handle bats? Consider that potentially every building and tree could be a bat roost. Would you know the steps necessary to avoid falling foul of the law? And it isn’t just bats. You will come across many an article proclaiming the extortionate cost to the development of individual great crested newts, for example. A wide range of species and their habitats are afforded strict legal protection under UK and EU legislation. Furthermore, the need to conserveand enhance valuable habitats and species is now enshrined in local and national planning policy with expectations that all developments will result in a net gain to biodiversity.
To the uninitiated, securing the necessary planning consents and successfully developing a site which positively benefits both humans and wildlife must seem fraught with difficulty with potential obstacles (and cost) at every stage. Fear not! Help is out there to guide you through the process and ensure ecology is factored in at the earliest stage to minimise risks of project delay and cost. CIRIA has always been instrumental in providing targeted and concise guidance to the construction industry; in partnership with The Ecology Consultancy, two editions of Working with Wildlife: guidance for the construction industry have been published, as well as a series of accompanying training events over two decades. And it doesn’t stop there. In 2019, a free Working with Wildlife app was released, a handy reference guide for anyone in the field or office!