Navigating the inconsistant world of conditions – ECoW
As an environmental consultancy that has an exceptional history in working with large renewable and infrastructure projects, we have an interest in what is required by the conditions of consent. Conditions of consent are requirements placed upon the project as way of ensuring certain risks are mitigated, the conditions are set by the Planning Authority and are usually generated through information contained within the planning application or at the request/advice of a statutory body. While we accept that each project is unique and will have conditions that relate to specific projects, there are common conditions and it is one of these conditions we will be focussing on in this piece.
ECoW means different things to different people and planning conditions often reflect this inconsistency. For ecologists an ECoW is typically an Ecological Clerk of Works; an Ecological Clerk of Works is defined by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management as someone who among other things “Manages ecological operatives engaged in ecological mitigation activities – such as undertaking ecological watching briefs and translocation of protected species.”.
For other consultants and more importantly, statutory bodies (predominantly in Scotland) an ECoW could mean an Environmental Clerk of Works; an Environmental Clerk of Works is defined by the Association of Environmental and Ecological Clerk of Works as being “An environmental or construction professional with direct responsibility for MONITORING compliance with environmental legislation, policy or mitigation.”.
These terms are often used interchangeably, however, by definition, an ecological clerk of works is not an environmental clerk of works and vice versa and this is quite important when it comes to conditions of consent.
Naturally Compliant recently reviewed conditions of consent for two separate wind farms for the same developer. For the first wind farm, the conditions specified that an Ecological Clerk of Works will MONITOR and REPORT on compliance with both Ecology and Hydrology requirements only, at no point does it state the Ecological Clerk of works will undertake any ecological surveys or mitigation. The conditions then go on to mention that a previously unmentioned Environmental Clerk of Works will be responsible for reviewing micro siting requests.
For the second wind farm, the conditions of consent state that the Ecological Clerk of Works is to UNDERTAKE ecological surveys to inform the Construction Environmental Management plan (CEMP) and they are then required to MONITOR and REPORT on compliance with legislation and the CEMP regarding Ecology and Hydrology constraints, a sort of hybrid role.
A recent review of planning conditions identified that where an ECoW was required, 70% of these were Ecological Clerk of Works, of that 70% only 30% had a purely ecological remit, making most ECoWs, by definition, an Environmental Clerk of Works.
If you as a developer, construction or civil engineering contractor ask a consultancy to supply an ecological clerk of works, you will most likely get an ecologist as consultancies are often eager to please. But given the wider environmental responsibilities in most roles, make sure the resource you receive know what is required of them and have the experience to deliver the role, especially given the monitoring and reporting requirements now outlined in most conditions of consent.