Planning decisions, ECoWs and what the guidance documents say…

In our previous post where we looked at terminology and remits of the ECoW. We discovered that the role of an Ecological Clerk of Works is perhaps still misused with 61% of Ecological Clerk of Works required to monitor more than just ecological compliance. There is evidence of this leading to an ECoW being appointed to large construction project with no experience of monitoring and advising on all round environmental compliance, this of course presents a risk to the environment.

When Local Planning Authorities determine the conditions of consent, they will often use internal guidance documents and advice from statutory consultees. To try to understand where the inconsistencies appeared we searched for patterns within the terminology used by different authorities; the results of which showed a clear difference between authorities in what the role of an Environmental/Ecological Clerk of Works entails.

Highland, North Lanarkshire and Fife Councils were much more likely to specify that an Ecological Clerk of Works only monitor ecological compliance than the likes of the Energy Consents Unit and Perth & Kinross Council. Whilst this may be coincidence, further investigation found a possible reason for this difference.

The Highland Council has a guidance document called ‘The Highland Council Guidance Note: Construction Environmental Management Process for Large Scale Projects’  which details the role and remit of an Environmental Clerk of Works, suggesting ‘a key construction environmental management tool is for the appointment, if required, of an appropriately qualified Environmental Clerk of Works (ECoW)’. It is likely that the use of this document for guidance may have encouraged planners and developers to better understand the role of an ECoW and this is seen in Highland Councils conditions of consent, where if they are only concerned about an ecological constraint, they advise an ecological clerk of works is engaged.

Perth & Kinross Council has a similar renewable energy planning guidance document, this does not reference an Environmental Clerk of Works at all. However, it does infer that the Ecological Clerk of Works will provide input to all things environmental.

Ambiguity in documents such as these are a possible cause for the misuse of the ECoW term.

The energy consents unit oversees the determination of Scotland’s biggest onshore energy projects, sometimes deciding on the biggest construction projects in the UK. Of the three ECoW projects decided by the ECU in 2018, all three specified a requirement of an Ecological Clerk of Works to oversee environmental compliance. An extract from one of the decision notices states

Ecological Clerk of Works

19.1 No development shall commence until the planning authority has approved the terms of appointment and the identity of the proposed appointee by and at the cost of the Developer of an independent and suitably qualified ECoW with roles and responsibilities which shall include but not necessarily be limited to:

 • Providing training to the Developer and contractors on their responsibilities to ensure that work is carried out in strict accordance with environmental protection requirements required by this deemed consent and by law.

• Monitoring compliance with all environmental and nature conservation mitigation works and working practices approved under this deemed planning permission, the CEMD, all CEMPs, the Pre-Construction Species Survey and Protection Plan and Habitat Management Plan.

• Advising the Developer on adequate protection for environmental and nature conservation interests within, and adjacent to, the application site.

• Liaising with and providing information to the Habitat Management Plan Steering Group (established in accordance with condition 23).

• Consideration of proposals made by the Developer for review of the Habitat Management Plan and reporting to the planning authority and SNH on such proposals.

• Consideration of all reporting by the Developer required in terms of this deemed consent during construction, including ornithological and vegetation reporting and tree felling and reporting to the planning authority and SNH on such reporting.

• Directing the placement of Site Infrastructure (including written approval of any micro-siting, as permitted by the terms of this deemed consent) and the avoidance of sensitive features.

• Regularly reporting to the planning authority, SNH and SEPA on all of the matters falling within his or her roles and responsibilities and making urgent reports to the planning authority, SNH and SEPA as may from time to time be appropriate.”

The condition states that the Ecological Clerk of Works must oversee environmental and all CEMP compliance, it could and perhaps should be argued that this is beyond an Ecologists remit. 

The Scottish Government sites the ‘Good Practice during Wind Farm Construction’, a joint publication by a number of statutory bodies, guidance to assist planning authorities sets out various good practice measures to be used during wind farm construction and uses the term ‘Clerk of Works’ carefully when specifying the associated remit. The document advises that

“The scope of works and level of resource commitment required of the CoW needs to be commensurate with the scale of the development, and the complexity of the archaeological and ecological and/or environmental issues at a site. For this reason it is often the case the CoW position represents a broad multidisciplinary resource.”

The document mimics this terminology throughout the guidance but stops short of defining that Ecological Clerk of Works oversees ecological monitoring and that an Environmental Clerk of Works oversees a broader scope. At the end of the dedicated ‘Clerk of Works’ section, there is a link for further information to The Association of Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Work’s ‘Good Practice Guidance’.

However the Scottish Governments “Onshore wind turbines: planning advice” publication simply states

“Good practice during construction: Planning authorities should generally encourage developers to appoint Ecological Clerks of Works to ensure that agreed designs and construction techniques are followed following planning approval.”

Is it any wonder that things are a little muddled?

We are working with anyone that will listen to improve consistency, but first there needs to be a recognition that there is a problem. More information will follow…..

Planning System and Environmental Conditions of Consent Review – Introduction

As a supplier of environmental resource principally to the construction phase and beyond of developments, Naturally Compliant undertook research of the planning system to identify trends and requirements outlined in planning conditions. We found inconsistencies across major projects consented between Jan – June 2018; Of the projects reviewed, 59 had specific conditions of consent requiring some form of on-site Environmental/Ecological Clerk of Works and/or some form of environmental management plan/documentation.

Over the coming months we will be discussing the results of the in-depth review of those 59 projects, detailing the inconsistencies we found in the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), Planning Conditions and statutory authority advice; furthermore, we noted inconsistencies in guidance from both statutory authorities and government documents. These current issues are likely to have been a driving force behind incorrect or inadequate resource on construction and development sites, likely resulting in the degradation of our environment. It’s not all doom and gloom however, we believe, in fact we know, that by highlighting these inconsistencies to the top decision and policy makers, changes can and are being made. Slowly we are starting to see advice documents being issued and updated guidance, showing positive progress.

That’s the dry bit over, let’s have a look at what our research uncovered. Terminology appears to be one of the greatest inconsistencies. Of the 30 projects which mentioned a need for on-site environmental resource- an ECoW, 73% requested an Ecological CoW, only 23% requested an Environmental CoW, while a suitably qualified ecologist (SQE) was requested 4% of the time. We then looked a little deeper at the remits of the resource required; where an Ecological CoW was requested, 61% of project remits were greater than just ecological monitoring and included roles such as pollution prevention and monitoring compliance with the Construction Environmental Management Plan.

By definition most Ecological CoW roles are fulfilled by an ecologist, most ecologists spend a significant amount of time becoming proficient in ecological issues such as protected species survey and mitigation, habitat mapping, report writing and would rarely deal with pollution prevention, pollution response, land contamination, waste management, environmental permitting etc. As such there is strong argument that requiring that these roles be fulfilled by an Ecological CoW could seriously put a project and the environment at risk.

The results have shown the inconsistency within the planning sector, and in general a skills shortage of experienced Environmental CoW; therefore the ECoW role is unfortunately often fulfilled by consultancies who send any available staff. We have experienced a range of competency in our time and until there is a consistent recognised approach like the Association of Environmental and Ecological Clerk of Works qualifying membership criteria, this will persist

We believe that, an Environmental CoW is a wide-ranging role that, depending on the specifics of the project, will be fulfilled by either a skilled professional that has the required experience and qualifications, or by a multidisciplinary team. To ensure the appropriate resource is appointed, you would imagine that where an Environmental CoW is required in a planning condition, specific information on their remit is detailed. However, our analysis showed that only 43% of projects detailed an environmental remit, while in 57% of projects, no remit was specified. We believe that remits should be defined so that, no matter what, it is clear what skills, experience and qualifications are needed by the individual or team undertaking the clerk of works role.

How do you sell Mental Health and Wellbeing, where is the Value?

As a business, our primary goal is to be profitable, it outweighs all other considerations. This is typically reflected in a business’s external literature, which revolves around the products and services that the company offers.

You have the direct marketing material and you have policies. But policies are also a way of selling, they reassure the supply chain that a company meet certain criteria and are therefore fit to do business with. However, we are yet to see a policy requirement for how a company manages mental health and wellbeing. In our own sphere, our experience is that we as consultancies like to promote how technically competent we are and how diligent we are in regard to our physical health and safety.

So, if mental health and wellbeing isn’t a requirement for winning work and you can’t sell it as a product or service, why should companies take an interest?

I guess the answer rests on the individual company and their culture, but it helps to remember that at differing levels, all companies rely on humans.

As a human being, you may be the most technically competent individual in your field but unless you are fit and healthy in all aspects of the phrase you will not be providing 100% value to the company you represent.

Industries across the globe have recognised this and on varying scales have attempted to address their own mental health and wellbeing. Mental health and wellbeing “experts” are paid significant sums to present and promote change within organisations. Some sectors are leading the way while others drag their heels or make token gestures.

So how do you recoup the investment in promoting a positive mental health culture, I guess the proof is in the pudding. As a company, Naturally Compliant may not get everything right but we do try, and we support our staff as much as we can. We believe that this means our colleagues are in a better place to offer industry leading advice consistently, day in day out.

Naturally Compliants own Simon Knott will be presenting at the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management Summer Conference on Mental Health and Wellbeing in July.

Whilst we can’t sell our wellbeing as a product we are certain it adds value.

Invasive Species Law and How Scotland Varies from England and Wales

Having done lots of reading about invasive and non-native species (NNS) lately, in some part to do with a recent training course I attended, but mostly out of interest in the subject, I have learnt both amazing and quite frightening facts about invasives in the UK and abroad; whether this to be with their often quite fascinating biology, their vectors for spread, the lengths required to control and eradicate them or even common misconceptions. For me, grasping an understanding of their biology, their means of growth and dominance over other species and the impacts of their often-rapid growth and spread is much easier than getting my head around legislation in the UK. When reading up on the legislation I noticed something at sparked me to dig deeper into legislation and to improve my understanding of how the systems work and what the differences are between Scotland and England and Wales

It’s worth noting that there are several pieces of legislation and regulations that impinges on invasive species management and the operations on construction sites, or even by any business or persons. The most important one that most will be aware off is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) (WCA), I will delve into this later. Firstly, let’s look at a few others to be aware of;

  • EU Regulation (1141/2014) on invasive alien (non-native) species – this imposes restrictions on a list of species known as ‘species of Union concern’. These are species whose potential adverse effects across the European Union are such that concerted action across Europe is required.
  • Environmental Protection Act 1990 / Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 – this act has limiting provisions for NNS, however it important when dealing with soils and other waste that may contain propagules of invasive NNS species and is therefore to be classed as controlled waste – we have to presume it relates to those species listen on S9 of the WCA such as Japanese Knotweed.
  • Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – Local councils and police have the power to issue CPNs to those who persistently and continualy act in a way that has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. This includes not dealing with invasive NNS on land that might impact a neighbour if not dealt with
  • National Infrastructures Act 2015 (England and Wales) / Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 – The acts give government the power, through statutory authorities, to enter into control agreements or through control orders with landowners to ensure action is taken against harmful species on their land.
  • Town and Country Planning Act 1990 / Town and Country Planning Act (Scotland) 1992 – Similar to CPN and include issues of nuisance.
  • Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 / Special Waste Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2004 – untreated invasive plant material is controlled waste, however if it has been treated with certain herbicides, it may be classed as hazardous / special waste. If handling over 500kg per year, then consignment notes must be produced and the organisation must be registered with the regulator. 

The various acts and regulations above are just some of the powers that may come into force if you have invasive NNS on your site or on your neighbours. But maybe the most important legal mechanism used for the control and management of NNS is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended); in Scotland this has been amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.

Having mostly worked in England I was well aware of Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) (WCA), often referring to the list of invasive animals and plants when advising clients about those to be aware of and which required specialised management during a development. In England and Wales, the law reads (see Defra guidance* for definitions);

14 Introduction of new species etc .E+W

(1 )Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person releases or allows to escape into the wild any animal which—

(a)is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or

(b)is included in Part I[F69, IA or IB] of Schedule 9,he shall be guilty of an offence.

(2)Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild any plant which is included in Part II of Schedule 9, he shall be guilty of an offence.

As the most common invasives found on sites are plants, this gave a clear definition of those to be aware of and advise about management, whilst other NNS or ‘ornamentals’ were of less concern in terms of duty of care and legal requirements. Having recently worked in Scotland I looked to find a similar list or reference to that list and noticed that none such exists. Scottish Law Reads;

14 Introduction of new species etc. S

[F716(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, any person who—

(a)releases, or allows to escape from captivity, any animal—

(i)to a place outwith its native range; or

(ii)of a type the Scottish Ministers, by order, specify; or

(b)otherwise causes any animal outwith the control of any person to be at a place outwith its native range, is guilty of an offence.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Part, any person who plants, or otherwise causes to grow, any plant in the wild at a place outwith its native range is guilty of an offence.

Instead of having a list of ‘invasive’ species the law states that Scottish Ministers may, by order, specify the animals or plants to which the above does not apply or allow different provisions for individual cases.

This therefore appears that Scottish law could have higher repercussions for dealing with non-native plants on sites; any non-native plant whether it be defined in one way or another as invasive or not, or even native to some specific areas of the UK, spread to the wild outside its native range, is an offence. It is therefore worth bearing in mind that, when moving any soils on site or between sites, that the propagules of any plant is not moved to an area that is classed to be outside of its ‘native range’. This further strengthens the call for strict biosecurity measures to be implanted on site, and to have environmental professionals on site to monitor and advise on any the movement of vegetation or soils containing propagules; specialists  with ecology expertise is likely to be required for assessing the ‘native range’ of the vegetation present on site.

*For important definitions including ‘in the wild’ or ‘native’, see Defra Guidance on Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, available from:  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69205/wildlife-countryside-act.pdf

Builders versus birds?

A recent headline in the Daily Mirror from the 27th March 2019 read ‘Disgraceful battle of builders versus birds’ with the article referring to public concern over the use of nets to cover trees and hedgerows to deter nesting birds on construction sites. Articles critical of this practice were widespread in newspapers and online media at the end of March and beginning of April.

The most sensationalist articles were found in the tabloid press with a common line being that ‘greedy’ house builders were carrying out this practice in order to maximise their profits and circumvent wildlife legislation. Celebrities including Chris Packham and Stephen Fry took to social media and a petition to parliament ‘Make netting hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting a criminal offence’ received more than 300,000 signatures by mid-April. This all served to raise the profile of the issue.

What is the truth behind the use of netting and what are the lessons learnt for developers and professional ecologists?

The background to netting is the perceived need to prevent birds nesting in vegetation that has been earmarked for removal as part of a construction project. The logic is that netting can be installed prior to the beginning of the nesting season (generally around the start of March) to prevent costly delays due to potential breeding birds when vegetation comes to be removed later. The active nests of all species of birds are protected by law.

It is interesting to assess the use of netting by reference to the principles of sustainable development: the need for a balance between environmental, social and economic factors. Housing development and energy infrastructure projects, for example, have clear social benefits and delays could cause significant costs that may be borne by the house purchaser and tax payer as well as affecting the developer’s bottom line.

On the other hand, there is anecdotal evidence of poor practice in the use of netting. Newspaper articles refer to developers using netting to cover trees before planning permission has been obtained and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust report a site in Ulverston where hedgerow netting has been left in place for more than two years. There are also obvious risks that poorly installed netting could lead to wildlife becoming trapped and contribute to the loss of wildlife habitat.

These examples of poor practice highlight the need for a construction industry endorsed code of practice for the use of netting. A statement issued jointly by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and the RSPB provides common sense recommendations which could form the basis of such a code of practice (https://cieem.net/cieem-and-rspb-advise-against-netting-on-hedges-and-trees/). With the lack any other formal guidance on the issue, professional ecologists and environmental clerks of work (ECoWs) working in the construction industry, should take this advice into account.

The statement advises the following:

Forward planning and early engagement of a competent ecologist by developers can often mitigate the circumstances that require netting to be used and avoid unnecessary delays to development projects. In line with planning guidelines, developers should be aiming to retain trees and hedges in the landscape design of their develop projects wherever possible. In the first instance vegetation should be removed outside the nesting bird season and should be checked by a competent ecologist. Where this is not possible, the developer should seek to compensate any removal by planting replacements.

If all other alternatives have been exhausted (i.e. under exceptional circumstances) and netting is to be used, we recommend that:

  • it is used only once planning permission has been granted;
  • it is installed with advice from a competent ecologist, ideally a CIEEM member who is bound by the Institute’s Code of Professional Conduct;
  • netting is used in such a way that it will not catch and hold birds and other wildlife;
  • all reasonable precautions are taken to ensure that no wildlife is trapped inside the netting at the time of installation (for example, hibernating hedgehogs in cavities at the base of trees); and
  • netting is checked three times a day to ensure that it has not become defective, loose or damaged and that no wildlife (such as birds, squirrels and butterflies) has become entangled.

CIEEM and the RSPB urge professional ecologists to think very carefully before recommending netting and for developers to consider the potential negative impact on wildlife and local communities in their activities.

The focus that the media attention has brought to this subject has had the positive effect of starting a debate. It is to be hoped that the debate will be an important step to a more responsible approach by the construction industry in the management of wildlife; one that goes beyond being purely driven by legislative compliance.

Biosecurity and Non-Native Terrestrial Plants

Biosecurity measures are essential on all construction sites even if they are not known to be present on site, some may ask why? One reason may be that invasive plants may completely die back and disappear in winter or become hard to identify, therefore they may have been missed in surveys; or in cases where rapid growth is seen, they may have entered the site and spread in just the last growing season. Another reason is that biosecurity measures also aim to stop the introduction of species onto a site. While some invasive non-native species (INNS) spread by seeds, many spread by tiny vegetative fragments. Smalls seeds and vegetative fragments can easily catch a ride on plant, equipment or in the treads of shoes and tyres. Once on site they can be easily spread across the site, potentially even only being discovered post construction when new growth is discovered, leaving the contractor liable for potentially costly remediation. If discovered during works, a fast response for containment and management can be vital to minimise spread, delays and costs spiralling.

Furthermore, it is an offence if activities cause the spread into the wild of species listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, or of species to a ‘location outside its native range’ under Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2012). In this article we will explore the key terrestrial invasive flora to be aware of and which are listed under Schedule 9 (S9).   

Himalayan Balsam (S9) is one of the most widespread invasive plants in the UK, it spreads incredibly easily due to its explosive seed heads. Often establishing along waterways, they outcompete other plants in the summer yet die off in the winter, destabilising banks leading to erosion and increased flooding risk. These annual plants can grow to 3 metres high and can disperse seeds 3-5 metres away, with seeds remaining viable for 2 years. If you’re working anywhere near these plants during or after seeding (June onwards), make sure a buffer of a minimum 5m is maintained at all times. If access in closer proximity is required, then shoes should be cleaned and all earth and seeds removed from soles of boots and treads of tyres when leaving the area. 

Japanese knotweed (S9) is one of the most difficult plants to kill, simply cutting the plant back is not only ineffective, it severely risks spreading the plant and increasing the problem. To manage the plant, it is must be sprayed at a specific time of year or in some cases each individual stem must be injected; in more extreme cases where a quick turnaround is required or spraying is not suitable, the plants and the earth beneath are excavated. Unlike Himalayan Balsam which spreads by seeds, Japanese knotweed spreads through rhizome and stem regeneration, and it only takes a 0.7g piece of rhizome to grow into a new plant! Therefore, it is vital that all stands are identified before groundworks commence – this is sometimes a requirement in planning conditions. Current guidelines state rhizomes can spread up to 7m away from the centre of the plant, and as such, a significant exclusion zone is often needed. Not only can it spread easily, but it can grow through cracks and gaps or in extreme cases hard surfaces such as thin tarmac, posing a significant risk to construction projects if allowed to spread across a site!  

Giant hogweed (S9) looks similar to native cow parsley yet grows up to 5m tall. It reproduces by seed which are produced prolifically. In hot summer months it can spread rapidly, especially along riverbanks. Though hard to miss due to its size, its size is not what poses the greatest danger, the sap from the plant is “phototoxic” – this means that it can burn and blister the skin in the presence of sunlight. Any removals should be done with appropriate PPE to ensure the sap does not make contact with the skin!  

Rhododendron (S9) can cover vast areas so if clearance is required, mechanical cutting and chemical treatment will often be needed to eradicate the species from site. An appropriate contractor and plan to deal with the waste should be in place for successful eradication and spread control.  

Buddleia (non S9) are a common waste ground INNS. Seeds blown into cracks germinate and the young plants root into the masonry which can cause structural damage to brickwork. Seeds are spread easily and the damage it can cause may be greater than those on Schedule 9, so despite there not being any legislative controls in place, it is worth not overlooking these if present on site.

Ensuring pre-construction surveys are undertaken is vital when any engineering or construction works are planned, especially in areas where invasives are known to be in the wider area or on waste ground. Biosecurity and invasive management plans should then be implemented to reduce the risk of spread or introduction of INNS. It is always worth remembering, if the construction activities facilitate the spread to the wild or to a ‘location outside its native range’ (Scotland), it would constitute an offence under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (in England and Wales) or Section 14 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2012). As a minimum, a ‘clean, check, dry’ method should be implemented on all sites.

Naturally complaint can undertake invasive species surveys and advise on how to manage them on your site, the earliest involvement of an environmental professional can often help to reduce any delays and costs due to INNS.

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

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.

Post Construction Contract Awarded

Naturally Compliant have been awarded a post construction environmental monitoring contract to enable our client to meet the requirements outlined in documents produced to allow the discharge of conditions associated with the consent. We will be providing technical field services, alongside data analysis and a review of trends associated with the operational phase of the onshore wind farm.

“This contract award is recognition of the value we as a company can offer to our clients, providing top level resource at competitive rates. We are only able to achieve this through the hard work and commitment of our dedicated team of experts.”

Simon Knott, Director, Naturally Compliant.

Post construction monitoring can last for the duration of the wind farms life cycle, if you have a new project or you need to find new resource for whatever reason, please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Biosecurity and Non-Native Aquatic Plants

Biosecurity measures are essential on all construction sites even if they are not known to be present on site, some may ask why? One reason may be that invasive plants may completely die back and disappear in winter or become hard to identify, therefore they may have been missed in surveys; or in cases where rapid growth is seen, they may have entered the site and spread in just the last growing season. Another reason is that biosecurity measures also aim to stop the introduction of species onto a site. While some invasive non-native species (INNS) spread by seeds, many spread by tiny vegetative fragments. Smalls seeds and vegetative fragments can easily catch a ride on plant, equipment or in the treads of shoes and tyres. Once on site they can be easily spread across the site, potentially even only being discovered post construction when new growth is discovered, leaving the contractor liable for potentially costly remediation. If discovered during works, a fast response for containment and management can be vital to minimise spread, delays and costs spiralling.

Aquatics are often less known about yet there are more aquatics listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 then terrestrial plants! Maybe aquatics appear to pose less of an immediate threat to construction, however once introduced, their spread on a site can be incredibly rapid. In this article we will explore the key terrestrial aquatic plants to be aware of, all of which are listed on Schedule 9:

Floating Pennywort can be free-floating or rooted and can spread rapidly. It can grow up to 20cm per day and may quickly dominate a waterbody forming thick mats. As a result, it impedes water flow and amenity use, out-competes native species by blocking out light, causing deoxygenation, obstructs air breathing insects from reaching the water surface and reduces water temperatures.

Water Fern is a very small free-floating water plant that forms dense mat leading to similar issues as those above, however it may also pose a safety hazard as the dense and continuous stands cause the water surface to appear solid.

Curley, Canadian and Nuttall’s Waterweed perennial, mostly submerged aquatic plants that spread mainly by vegetative propagation through detached stem fragments that become easily established. Waterweeds can overwhelm ponds and outcompete native vegetation as well as choke up waterways, exacerbating flood risk. They also replace native aquatic plant species and reduce biodiversity in lakes and ponds and interfere with recreational activities such as angling and boating.

New Zealand Pigmyweed can be submerged, emergent and terrestrial. It forms dense mats and can impede drainage, causing flooding. It also displaces other aquatic plant species and reduces amenity use of the waterbody.

Parrot’s Feather Emergent growth that is blue-green colour with feather-like leaves make this a distinctive water plant, spreading by vegetative fragments. It displaces native species, rapidly dominating water bodies and causes flooding by blocking watercourses and drainage channels

Creeping Water Primrose only currently known in a few places in the UK, it can alter water chemistry through allelopathic activity (production of biochecmicals) leading to multiple knock-on effects to other trophic levels, including aquatic invertebrates.

It is vital that any engineering works in watercourses, drainage systems or waterbodies where these species may be present or could be easily spread to ensure pre-construction surveys are undertaken and biosecurity and invasive management plans are implemented to reduce the risk of spread or introduction of INNS. It is always worth remembering, if the construction activities facilitate the spread to ‘the wild’ or to a ‘location outside its native range’ (Scotland), it would constitute an offence under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (in England and Wales) or Section 14 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2012). As a minimum, a ‘clean, check, dry’ method should be implemented on all sites.

Naturally complaint can undertake invasive species surveys and advise on how to manage them on your site, the earliest involvement of an environmental professional can often help to reduce any delays and costs due to INNS. prior

American Signal Crayfish

Biosecurity and Non-Native Animals

Hidden below murky waters or hibernating in river banks, concealed high up in trees or only coming out at night, these are some of the traits that may mean some invasive and non-native animals go unseen. Unlike the more visible and immobile plants, the presence of INN animals may not be at the forefront of our minds when thinking about invasive species on construction sites, and as such, the damages they can cause also risks going unseen.

Furthermore, the movement of plant and materials on and between sites may be less likely to spread animals than spread the seeds and vegetative parts of plants, yet the risk of spreading disease harmful to native animals and livestock is very high.

In this article we explore the INN animals that could be present and their implications:

The American signal crayfish was introduced by the British Government in the 1970s from North America to act as an additional and lucrative revenue due to their size, rapid growth and reproduction and are less fussy about what they eat; in contrast the native white-clawed crayfish (WCC) are much smaller, produce far less eggs and susceptible to crayfish plague. However, many signal crayfish escaped from farms, quickly and aggressively coloning waterways, eating fish eggs and digging deep burrows which undermine riverbanks. Signal crayfish outcompete native and protected white-clawed crayfish and are carriers of crayfish plague, resulting in the near eradication of WCC. It is possible however for both species of crayfish to be present in the same watercourse in close proximity if movement is limited by a physical barrier such as dam, weir or waterfall. As such, it is vital that all plant is cleaned, disinfected, checked and dried (>24 hours) before arriving on site and potentially when moving between locations on the same watercourse. If disease or species are spread to new areas, especially those where native species are present, this would constitute an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA). Furthermore, native crayfish are sensitive to silt pollution, clogging gills and smothering feeding ground; as such construction work needs to maintain a pollution prevention plan.   

A new and emerging threat has entered Britain as recently at 2010, these are known as killer shrimp. Two species are known within the UK and both are highly invasive, resilient and voracious predators. They indiscriminately eat other invertebrates and small fish which significantly alter ecosystems. Being only a few millimetres long and able to survive for up to 5 days in damp conditions, strict biosecurity measures must be implemented on any site where plant and machinery are used within the watercourse as once in an ecosystem, they are impossible to remove. Though they are not currently listed under legislation, as a non-native species with the potential to cause serious harm to ecology (especially to protected and notable species already under threat), it could be an offence to release or allow the escape of this species into the wild.

Other species such as rabbits, grey squirrels, mink and muntjac deer are all introduced species. Rabbits cause crop damage and land degradation and erosion, grey squirrels spread deadly disease to native reds, mink cause damage to wildlife, fisheries and game and domestic bird and muntjac damage our woods. Under the Pests Act 1954, rabbits must be controlled on the owners land in England and Wales as they are designated as rabbit clearance areas. Grey squirrels, mink and muntjac are listed under schedule 9 of the WCA and therefore if caught on site, it is illegal to release them into the wild, or allow them to escape. If pest species are caught on site, even accidently, considerations on humane dispatch may be required.