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Ecology – An Industry Update from 2012

December 12, 2012 Kate Hayward Ecological ConsultancyEcologist

Just some of the changes and events that took place this year…

Legislation – Changes to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 came into force in August this year, resulting in The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) Regulations 2012.   The Regulations strengthen the UK’s implementation of Articles 2, 3, 4(4) and 10 of the Wild Birds Directive, requiring necessary measures in particular to preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitats for wild birds.   The changes also aim to ensure that outside those areas which are specifically designated as important bird habitats, efforts are taken to avoid pollution or deterioration of habitats.

National Planning Policy – In March 2012, the UK Government published its final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how they should be applied. This document replaces Planning Policy Statement 9 Biodiversity and Geological Conservation (2005) (amongst other policies).  The NPPF must be taken into account in the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans, and is a material consideration in planning decisions.  In relation to conserving and enhancing the natural environment (Section 11) the document sets out how the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment, and states “development proposals where the primary objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity should be permitted” and “opportunities to incorporate biodiversity in and around developments should be encouraged“. The Government continues to recognise the importance of good evidence and data for decision-making.  There is repeated reference to early engagement with all necessary stakeholders, including expert bodies.

Best Practice Guidelines – The Bat Conservation Trust published ‘Bat Surveys – Good Practice Guidelines’ this year which provides update-to-date professional advice on survey effort and mitigation.  In August this year, the Bat Conservation Trust also issued new guidance on landscape and urban design for bats and biodiversity.  This resource is intended for ecologists and landscape architects to assist in providing technical advice and design solutions to ensure effective bat habitat creation and mitigation measures.  This publication is a useful design resource for other species, such as birds and invertebrates too.

In September 2011, Natural England published ‘New Reptile Mitigation Guidelines for Developers’.  They subsequently withdrew the guidelines in October 2011 in order to gain further feedback. Natural England proposed to re-issue the guidelines in spring of this year; however, we are still waiting for the revised guidelines and until then we are continuing to follow the old recommended survey guidelines.  Watch this space…

Royal Charter – Granted this year with the Register of Chartered Ecologists launch in 2013!

Conferences – 2012 IEEM Autumn Conference on renewable energy and biodiversity impacts, attended by Hannah Maben.  The conference covered some of the big issues, such as birds, bats and windfarms, impacts of renewables on the marine environment, protecting biodiversity and biodiversity off-setting within renewable projects, and the vision of renewables and biodiversity.

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