Our team has considerable experience of managing a wide range of projects with the ability to advise and navigate our clients through the planning process, liaise with regulatory bodies on their behalf and advise on the design and implementation of work strands such as generic and specific monitoring programmes.
Over our 25-year history we have developed a reputation for insight into potential ecological issues. A good example of this was our role as advisors to several large companies in the bidding process for Round 3 offshore wind farm zones. We conducted a high-level assessment using the available literature and our in-depth knowledge of foraging range and habitat use by seabirds. As a result we were able to advise on the connectivity of SPA species to particular potential areas of development, as well as broadly predict seabird use. This provided a 'heads-up' on the likely ornithological issues the developers would encounter and helped inform their strategy both in the bidding process and after a bid was successful. The companies we advised were able to demonstrate knowledge of potential consenting issues in their bids and all went on to secure a Zone. Two of these have gone on to receive consent for their first sites to be presented, with further sites lined up for submission in the future.
Our experience means that we have an established reputation with the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs), and on behalf of our clients we are able to utilise our interpersonal skills to ensure that any issues are identified and resolved early on in the process and the project is progressed as efficiently as possible. We pride ourselves on our ability to offer innovative and bespoke solutions to difficult issues. This may simply involve a straightforward technical solution coupled with ecological insight.
For example, for one coastal wind farm, through targeted innovative surveys we were able to demonstrate that the Little Gulls present in large numbers at a nearby freshwater lake on occasion, rarely used the site. In fact, our surveys showed that the birds tended to roost on the sea rather than the lake as thought. Flight direction and passage rate data predicted use of a much wider offshore area than was initially suspected.
On some projects, our staff may become embedded within the developer team, helping to guide the consent process, attend meetings and generally provide project management services on a virtually daily basis. Advice may extend beyond project submission and into the different consent processes in the different countries in the UK (e.g. PINS in England), and even beyond into construction and operation.
Our independent status and offering of impartial advice based on rigorous scientific practice and principles also means that our advice is also sought by a wider range of oragnisations including SNCBs and regulatory bodies. We are retained under contractual frameworks by both Natural England and Natural Resources Wales to provide ornithological services in a range of habitats. To date, this has involved scientific 'sense checking' of development proposals, as well as more detailed investigation of survey and monitoring data, provision of supporting literature and written opinion in the form of relevant and written representations on behalf of a particular organisation.
We have also provided habitat management advice in the short and longer term for a wide range of organisations. In its simplest form, advice may involve a site visit and discussion with the site manager to advice on best current management practice or answer a series of specific questions in relation to a specific problem. For example, how could a natural resource such as a pond or meadow be improved for conservation purposes or how could recreational use be modified to promote conservation value. A summary of recommendations may be sufficient but this can trigger further investigation through targeted sampling and a detailed management plan for the site, perhaps understanding historical relative to current condition and the potential role of stressors.
In this context we have recently completed fisheries management plans for both the Longwater Canal at Hampton Court Palace for the Royal Palaces and Gardens and for Loe Pool owned by the National Trust. In both cases, it was important to understand the potential role of fish relative to nutrient enrichment and riparian habitat management in determining lake condition. In both cases it was also important to maintain or enhance recreational value for anglers.