Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey

Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys in Shropshire

Over the past 12 months BiOME has completed more than ten Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys (EP1HS) in Shropshire, assisting clients across a variety of sectors.

We were delighted to complete an EP1HS and protected species survey to assist Alveley Cricket Club in their planning application for a new ground and clubhouse. Having outgrown their existing facilities, the club identified a plot of pastoral farmland on the edge of the village and were investigating the feasibility of development. BiOME initially completed an EP1HS which identified a suite of common habitats within the proposed development site. Immediately adjacent to the site boundary a number of habitat features exhibited characteristics to suggest that they could support protected species; further ecology surveys were therefore required.

Three ponds were found and Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) assessments were completed to determine the potential suitability of these ponds to support breeding populations of Great Crested Newts (GCN). HSI assessment for GCN is a numerical index, between 0 and 1, and provides a measure of habitat suitability; in general, ponds with high HSI scores are more likely to support GCN than those with low scores. This assessment concluded that these ponds were highly unlikely to support GCN and no further works in relation to this species were therefore required.

Around the site boundary a number of mature Oak trees were present, with Potential Roost Features (PRF) for bats identified. Bat surveys, through the aerial inspection of these PRFs, were completed by our team of licenced tree climbers to determine the presence/likely absence of roosting bats. During these surveys Barn Owl surveys were also undertaken, to evaluate the potential presence of this species breeding in trees in the area.

Signs of Badgers were observed in the vicinity of the site, including prints, hairs and latrines. A dedicated Badger survey was completed which identified two Badger setts, some distance from the proposed development site.

Finally, an Otter survey was completed focusing on the riparian habitats near the site. This survey was completed by searching for field signs of this species, and also though the deployment of camera traps.

Following the evaluation of all survey data, the compilation of reports and the assessment of likely effects, no significant adverse ecological impacts were predicted. The development will include a large amount of native tree and shrub planting, the installation of bat boxes, Badger gates in all fence lines and a Barn Owl box to ecologically enhance the ground. Hopefully the children who enjoy their cricket at this new facility in southeast Shropshire will get to share it with some interesting wildlife as a result of these enhancements.

Solar Farms – EP1HS, Breeding Bird, Badger, Water Vole and Great Crested Newt Surveys

In recent years the UK has seen a huge increase in the number of solar farms using ground-mounted Photovoltaic (PV) panels. However, this increase slowed from April 2015 following the closure by the government of the subsidy scheme for large scale (>5MW, enough to power 2,500 homes) solar developments.  With further subsidy cuts for those developments <5MW planned for April 2016, it is expected that the number of new solar farms will unfortunately continue to fall.

There is currently limited research into the long-term ecological impacts of these developments, although it is thought that assuming appropriate consideration is given to the development location and the species / habitats present, effects should be generally insignificant. Indeed, there is often the potential to offer ecological enhancements as part of the development through the implementation of a Biodiversity Management Plan.

In 2015 BiOME completed surveys in relation to a number of proposed solar developments in Wales and England. These surveys included Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys followed by dedicated breeding bird surveys, Badger Meles meles, Water Vole Arvicola amphibious and Great Crested Newt Triturus cristatus surveys which informed the Ecological Impact Assessment which was submitted in support of the planning applications.

Photo : Great Crested Newt (and a Great Diving Beetle  Dytiscus marginalis)  within a bottle trap, caught in Wales

Photo: Great Crested Newt (and a Great Diving Beetle Dytiscus marginalis) within a bottle trap, caught in Wales

Photo : A drainage ditch within a proposed solar farm site that was surveyed for Water Voles

Photo: A drainage ditch within a proposed solar farm site that was surveyed for Water Voles