Comprehensive Services from Aspect Ecology

Aspect Ecology provides the full range of ecological services from Phase 1 habitat surveys to detailed Phase II National Vegetation Classification habitat and botanical mapping.

Our ecologists hold licences to survey protected species whilst we also regularly carry out surveys for rare or priority species groups including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles or invertebrates. Aspect Ecology’s team of professional ecologists are able to undertake over 95% of our survey workload in-house, while we maintain close links to specialists who we are able to draw upon as required.

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The team are also exceptionally familiar with BREEAM and biodiversity offsetting/net gain and our experience allows us to readily advise clients how to maximise the ecological credits/units achievable.

Further details on the services we provide are set out below:

Strategic Advice

Aspect Ecology offers comprehensive ecological advice throughout the lifetime of a project from pre-purchase due-diligence surveys and identification of potential ecological constraints to inform site promotion, through to the development of emerging masterplans and the production of supporting documents for planning applications.

Aspect Ecology’s strategic ecological thinking, expert knowledge and pragmatic approach ensures ecological constraints are identified early on in project development, ensuring biodiversity can be safeguarded and accommodated within schemes, whilst maximising the developable area available.

Our ecologists focus on identifying cost-effective and realistic strategies to help clients explore the development potential of challenging sites of all sizes.

Faunal Surveys

Survey work may often initially focus on identification of the presence/absence of protected species and, if present, the subsequent establishment of population sizes. Surveys are regularly undertaken for the following species/faunal groups:

Aspect Ecology’s ecologists hold survey licences issued by Natural England (NE) / Natural Resources Wales (NRW) / Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) as required when certain groups or species, e.g. bats, Great Crested Newts, may be encountered.

In addition, other species may be rare, scarce or declining and, although may not receive legal protection, may be of conservation concern. Aspect Ecology’s ecologists are able to conduct surveys for all such species. Please get in touch to discuss specific project requirements.

Habitat and Botanical Surveys

Aspect’s ecologists regularly undertake the full range of habitat surveys across the UK. Our survey experience encompasses the majority of UK habitat types from lowland Dorset heathlands to Scottish uplands and estuarine saltmarsh as well as all the more commonly encountered habitats such as ancient woodland (ASNW and PAWS), secondary woodland, grasslands and agricultural land.

Aspect Ecology’s in depth experience of habitats in relation to policy and legislation is regularly called upon by clients requesting assessments of the potential effects of proposals on designated sites e.g. SACs (Special Areas of Conservation), SPAs (Special Protection Areas), Ramsar sites, SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), National/Local Nature Reserves and County/Local Wildlife Sites, with expert evidence presented at inquiry to support the findings of these surveys whenever required.

Aspect Ecology holds particular experience in surveying urban habitats, and the species and community types supported. Brownfield sites in particular can be extremely variable, with some supporting little ecology and others supporting invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed or local rarities.

Methodologies commonly employed include Phase 1, extended Phase 1, Phase II/National Vegetation Classification (NVC), River Corridor Surveys and Hedgerows Regulations Surveys, while novel survey methods are employed as needed to fit specific project requirements.

Environmental Impact Assessment

Aspect’s ecologists are regularly called upon to contribute to professional consultant teams in order to assess the impacts of proposals under EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) legislation.

EIA is employed as a tool for assessment across an increasing number of sites in the UK. Aspect Ecology’s approach seeks to understand the environmental baseline conditions and, in turn, feed these existing conditions into the site layout, so that a balance is reached between the capacity of the receiving environment and maximising the achievable development to make best use of the available land.

Aspect Ecology’s consultant teams offer expertise in developments encompassing retail, residential, commercial, industrial, minerals, fisheries, highways, airports, rail and inland shipping.

BREEAM

Aspect Ecology carries in-house expertise in advising on maximising available ecological credits within BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) and BREEAM for Offices, Retail, School and Industrial.

Our professional associations mean we are classed under BREAAM as “suitably qualified ecologists” being accredited to both the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).

Our ecologists are able to advise in terms of likely credit scores at both the preliminary and full stages of a BREEAM assessment.

We aim to maximise credit scores for minimum cost, whilst maintaining the developable area of any site

Invasive Species

Aspect’s ecologists regularly undertake surveys for invasive species.

We can advise on the legislative issues associated with the presence of certain species and their implications within development sites, for example in terms of compromising built structures.

Typical species encountered may include Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam, while other invasive species may often be of concern, particularly on the aquatic environment, such as New Zealand Pigmy Weed, Parrot’s Feather and Water Fern.

Mitigation programmes can be drawn up and the most effective methods of dealing with each species determined on a site by site basis.

Mitigation Schemes

Aspect Ecology seeks to safeguard any ecological interests present, whilst also maximising the area available for development through the careful design and implementation of industry leading mitigation schemes.

Aspect Ecology’s ecologists work closely with our clients to ensure that mitigation measures can, wherever possible, be incorporated within development frameworks. Where achievable, we will work to retain any ecological features or species within the development site, but on occasion where this is not possible, translocation programmes can be designed to relocate species to safer receptor sites in the near surrounds.

We have particular experience in habitat creation, restoration, re-creation and translocation, and our knowledge of the latest research allows us to successfully implement innovative mitigation schemes to facilitate development.

Where protected species are encountered, mitigation works may need to be licensed, typically in England by Natural England. Aspect Ecology’s ecologists regularly obtain licences to implement mitigation schemes, whilst our ecologists also hold class licences in relation to Water Voles, bats and Badgers, allowing certain mitigation measures to be carried out without the need for specific project mitigation licences to be applied for. Recent examples include the closure of Badger setts and creation of new artificial setts, re-development of bat roosts and creation of new roost sites and translocation of Great Crested Newts to newly constructed ponds.

In some cases, licences cannot be issued for works affecting protected species. In these cases, mitigation schemes must rely on defences within the legislation, although schemes can often be agreed with the relevant statutory nature conservation body. Recent examples include in respect of Black Redstart, Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl, Hedgehog, Slow-worm, Common Lizard, Grass Snake and solitary mining bees.

Expert Witness

Aspect Ecology’s senior team regularly present evidence as expert witnesses at section 78 appeals, call-in inquiries, local plan inquiries, compulsory purchase order and highways inquiries, working with Barristers from a range of chambers such as Landmark, No. 5, 39 Essex and Francis Taylor Buildings.

Evidence recently presented covers a diverse range of issues from the effects of air quality on Special Areas of Conservation, the effectiveness of species mitigation programmes, the effects of a waste transfer station of woodland biodiversity, the benefits of the creation of nature reserves and open access land, the quality of habitats present, mitigation schemes for protected species and ecological impacts of dual carriageway schemes. In addition, Aspect Ecology has particular niche experience in respect of advising on ancient woodland matters at appeal alongside advising on matters of the historic landscape such as the value of traditional orchards and habitat re-creation options available.

Habitats Regulations Assessment

European designated sites, such as SACs, SPAs and Ramsar sites, are afforded strict protection under UK and European law and policy. Competent authorities, such as local planning authorities, have a legal obligation to consider whether any plan or project is likely to have an adverse effect on a European designated site, through a process known as a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).

Aspect Ecology’s extensive experience and knowledge of European designations enable us to closely advise developers as to how projects can be modified to ensure compliance with the legislation as well as providing comprehensive advice regarding mitigation options to avoid such effects.  Recent project examples include assessment of coastal SPAs in respect of oil and petro-chemical storage and refinery re-development, assessment of air quality matters in respect of heathland SACs and assessment of potential effects of recreational pressure on unimproved grassland SACs.  Although the onus is on the competent authority to undertake the HRA assessment during the planning process, Aspect Ecology regularly provide comprehensive information to allow the assessment to be carried out, which often requires the close integration of our work with that of other disciplines such as transport and air quality.

Biodiversity Impact Calculations, Offsetting and Net Gain

One of the overarching themes of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is that of sustainable development, which includes moving from a net loss of biodiversity to achieving net gains for nature where possible.  One method for demonstrating ‘no net loss’ in the planning process, or compensating for loss when it cannot first be avoided or mitigated for, is the concept of Biodiversity Offsetting informed by detailed Biodiversity Impact Calculations.

Aspect Ecology is highly experienced in compiling the required Biodiversity Impact Calculations, as requested by various local planning authorities to quantitatively assess development proposals in terms of biodiversity loss or gain. Metrics include Defra’s original biodiversity offsetting metric as well as Warwickshire’s metric while other metrics are in use on a regional basis or on a developer specific basis.  Our ecologists are experienced in using the offsetting process to compensate for biodiversity loss and to achieve a net gain, including through negotiations with offset providers such as the Environment Bank.