Welcome to Ecology Quarterly, where we share the latest insights, news, and research from the world of ecology for the built environment. 

Get Your Calendar Ready for Survey Season

Those spring bulbs are beginning to poke through the ground, and amphibians have already been seen coming out of hibernation and moving to their ponds. You might even spot birds nesting, and this signals that the ecology survey season is fast approaching.

To celebrate the beginning of survey season, we have designed a new Ecology Calendar to give you a full overview of the year. You can download your free copy and discover the optimal time to conduct different types of habitat and protected species surveys.

The Environment Bill & Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)

With Royal Assent in November 2021, the Environment Bill has become law. It is expected to become mandatory in winter 2023. The Bill creates a framework post-Brexit, to improve and protect the natural environment. It aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand. As part of the Act, there will be a mandatory requirement for new developments to provide a 10% BNG and all developments should aim to achieve this going forward. In fact, some Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) have already introduced a net gain to their local policy. This is also in line with the National Planning Policy Framework which requires net gains for biodiversity.

This is a fantastic step change towards creating an industry standard and reporting metric on improving biodiversity. We were fortunate enough to present on the requirements, implementation, and opportunities of BNG for The Green Register in February. Stacey Cougill, Director and Sara Curtis, Principal Ecologist and Sustainability Consultant had an insightful discussion on how the built environment can understand this new Environmental Bill and incorporate BNG within initial designs.

Eight Versa can complete the BNG calculation and offer advice on how to maximise potential for improvements to wildlife. 

Case Study: Unanimous Approval for Darwin Green, Cambridge

From the approval for 1,593 units in northwest Cambridge, Darwin Green aims to be an area for much-needed new homes, a primary school, community facilities and retail units. Eight Versa were brought onboard at the planning stage to conduct ecology surveys for the site so that protected species are considered in the application for approval. The exceptional quality of this submission was praised by the Chair as “the best ever brought to this committee for a major application” as it included extensive ecological surveys, recommendations, and management plans.

Now that the project has been approved by unanimous decision, our partnership with the client can concentrate on educating, supervising and advising at the construction stage. By delivering key insight sessions on what species and habitats to look out for and what to do when approaching different scenarios. Overall being involved in the full process from planning to construction meant that Darwin Green could successfully deliver ecological enhancements and the biodiversity value of the area.

Ecology Bat Survey
Survey Highlight: The Great Crested Newt (GCN)

GCN are a European Protected Species who look like mini dinosaurs; with a black, verrucous appearance and bright orange, spotted underside. During the past few months, they hibernate in terrestrial tussocky grassland, log/stone piles, woodland, and hedgerow bases. But as the weather warms, they are beginning to move into ponds for breeding.

GCN can move up to 500m, so when we are considering their presence on a development, all ponds within this buffer should be identified and considered even if they are not onsite. Traditional surveys or eDNA surveys can be used, both approaches have strict timing restrictions. Now is a key time to get those initial ‘extended’ Phase I habitat surveys conducted to plan ahead and identify whether GCN could be present on your site.

Our Ecology Team: Meet Sara

We have a range of ecological experts at Eight Versa, which enables us to offer a diverse scope of Surveys. Meet Sara Curtis, our Principal Ecologist and Sustainability Consultant.

Sara brings over 10 years’ experience providing project management and ecological services for projects ranging from individual houses to large scale, multi-phased developments. As an experienced ecological consultant, Sara has successfully led on numerous projects from initial first enquiry stages, through planning to discharge of conditions, BREEAM assessments, biodiversity net gain and European Protected Species licence applications and implementation.

Sara Curtis - Eight Versa