This chapter of the Environmental Statement (ES) assesses the likely significant effects resulting from the construction and operation of the project on ecology and nature conservation. The methods and criteria used to assess potential effects on ecology and nature conservation have been described. The opportunities to provide appropriate mitigation are also outlined within this chapter.
The aims of the ecology assessment are to:
Legislation and Planning Policy Context
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) is the principal legislative protection for wildlife within England. It establishes protection for certain species of plant and animals and allows for the protection in law of various designated sites. It also consolidates and amends earlier national legislation to implement the European Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds (The Birds Directive) in the UK. Individual species receive different levels of protection under the Act. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) were designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 where sites and their habitats support significant numbers of wild birds.
Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is complemented by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (hereafter referred to as The Habitats Regulations 2017). This is the most recent legislation to implement in law European Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive) adopted in 1992. The 2017 legislation supersedes the earlier legislation from 2010 and 1994, which was subject to a series of amendments.
Individual species (such as otter Lutra lutra and dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius) and species groups (including all native UK bat Chiroptera species) receive a high level of protection under the Habitat Regulations.
The regulations require the potential effects on European Protected Habitats to be a key consideration in planning decisions. If it is likely that the designated features have the potential to be impacted, then an appropriate assessment is required under Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive with consideration of mitigation options to avoid adverse effects. If uncertainty remains over a potentially significant effect, then alternative solutions need to be considered.
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 has been amended and reinforced in England and Wales by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) Act 2000 (as amended). The CRoW Act increases protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) as well as strengthening wildlife enforcement legislation.
The CRoW Act places a duty on the Government to have regard for the conservation of biodiversity and to maintain lists of species and habitats for which conservation action should be taken or promoted, in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity. Schedule 9 of the CRoW Act amends the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 by altering the notification procedures for SSSIs and providing increased powers for their protection and management.
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 places a duty on all public authorities to have regard to the purpose of conserving biodiversity.
Setion 40 of the NERC Act 2006 imposes a duty on all public bodies including local and national government to have regard to biodiversity in the exercise of all of their functions, with particular regard to species of conservation priority and is often referred to as 'the biodiversity duty'.
In England, Section 41 (S41) of the Act lists the species and habitats of highest importance for conserving biodiversity (derived from the original UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priorities). The S41 list is a definitive reference for all public bodies in England (statutory and non-statutory) and is a guide for decision-makers when implementing their statutory duties to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity. This ‘biodiversity duty’ includes taking steps to promote the restoration and enhancement of the populations of S41 species.
Section 41 species include a number of native bat species (including greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and lesser horseshoe bat Rhinolophus hipposideros, noctule Nyctalus noctula, soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus, and brown long-eared bat Plecotus auritus), dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius, hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus, brown hare Lepus europaeus, a number of bird species associated with grassland and woodland habitats, slow-worm Anguis fragilis, and great crested newt Triturus cristatus amongst others. All these species are of conservation concern and have suffered long-term population declines.
Species Legal Protection and Conservation Status
All bats, their breeding and nesting sites (roosts) are protected under the Habitats Regulations 2017 and Section 9(4)(b), (c) and (5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with an amendment in the CRoW Act 2000 to include both intentional and reckless disturbance.
In summary, these pieces of legislation make it an offence if: a bat is deliberately captured, injured or killed; a bat is intentionally or recklessly disturbed in its roost or a group of bats is deliberately disturbed; a bat roosting place is damaged or destroyed (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time); or access to a bat roost is intentionally or recklessly obstructed.
Any disturbance of a roost due to development must be licensed. The legislation protects roost sites and consideration needs to be given to circumstances where loss of foraging habitat could indirectly result in the loss of the roost.
Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, badgers Meles meles are protected from killing, injuring or disturbance, while occupying a sett, and their setts are protected from obstruction, damage or destruction.
Nesting birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird or take, damage or destroy its nest whilst in use or being built, or take or destroy its eggs. In addition to this, for some rarer species (listed on Schedule 1 of the Act), it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb them while they are nest building or at or near a nest with eggs or young, or to disturb the dependent young of such a bird.
All native British reptiles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). The four most widespread reptile species (grass snake Natrix natrix, slow worm Anguis fragilis, common lizard Zootoca vivipara and adder Vipera berus) are protected from intentional killing or injury.
Dormice Muscardinus avellanarius are fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended. Dormice are also included on Schedule 2 of the Habitats Regulations 2017 as European Protected Species. They are also listed on Section 41 of the NERC Act 2006.
Great Crested Newt
The great crested newt Triturus cristatus is a European Protected Species (EPS) and, as such, is afforded full protection under the Habitats Regulations 2017. It is also fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take great crested newts and to damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place used for shelter or protection. In addition to this, it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb them while they are occupying a structure or place used for that purpose.
National Planning Policy
National Planning Policy Framework
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in February 2019. This provides a simplified and streamlined single document to replace previous national planning policy. This replaces the NPPF previously issued in 2012 (and updated in 2018).
The principle of sustainable development enshrined in the NPPF acknowledges the environmental role of planning in protecting and enhancing the natural environment and helping to improve biodiversity. The NPPF recognises that achieving sustainable development involves pursuing positive improvements in the natural environment.
Chapter 15 of the NPPF ‘Conserving and enhancing the natural environment’ contains provisions for ensuring that planning can be sustainable from an environmental perspective. Specifically, paragraphs 174 states that:
“To protect and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity, plans should:
a) Identify, map and safeguard components of local wildlife-rich habitats and wider ecological networks, including the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity; wildlife corridors and stepping stones that connect them; and areas identified by national and local partnerships for habitat management, enhancement, restoration or creation; and
b) promote the conservation, restoration and enhancement of priority habitats, ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species; and identify and pursue opportunities for securing measurable net gains for biodiversity.”
Paragraph 175 goes on to state that:
”When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles:
a) if significant harm to biodiversity resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused;
b) development on land within or outside a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and which is likely to have an adverse effect on it (either individually or in combination with other developments), should not normally be permitted. The only exception is where the benefits of the development in the location proposed clearly outweigh both its likely impact on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest, and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest;
c) development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists; and
d) development whose primary objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity should be supported; while opportunities to incorporate biodiversity improvements in and around developments should be encouraged, especially where this can secure measurable net gains for biodiversity.”
The NPPF also states that (Paragraph 176):
”the following should be given the same protection as habitats sites:
a) potential Special Protection Areas and possible Special Areas of Conservation;
b) listed or proposed Ramsar sites; and
c) sites identified, or required, as compensatory measures for adverse effects on habitats sites, potential Special Protection Areas, possible Special Areas of Conservation, and listed or proposed Ramsar sites.”
Paragraph 177 continues:
“The presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a habitats site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects), unless an appropriate assessment has concluded that the plan or project will not adversely affect the integrity of the habitats site.”
The NPPF is supported by the Government Circular ‘Biodiversity and Geological Conservation – Statutory Obligations and their Effect within the Planning System’, jointly issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra, 2005). This joint circular aims to provide ‘guidance on the application of the law in relation to planning and nature conservation as it applies in England’.
The Government Circular refers to the UK BAP, England Biodiversity Strategy (Defra, 2011) and Local Biodiversity Partnerships. These documents outline strategic actions for biodiversity at both the national and local level and are considered further below under Wildlife Legislation.
National Planning Practice Guidance
The National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) was issued online by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in July 2019 (Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, 2018) and is updated periodically by the Government as a live document. The Natural Environment section of the guidance provides information on when biodiversity should be considered in an application:
“Information on biodiversity and geodiversity impacts and opportunities needs to inform all stages of development (including site selection and design, pre-application consultation and the application itself)” (Paragraph 018)
Paragraph 019 of The NPPG also provides guidance on action with respect to the application of the mitigation hierarchy:
Construction and Completed Development Effects
This section sets out methods used for identifying important ecological features that will be affected by the proposed works, and how impacts have been assessed. The method follows the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) ‘Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the UK and Ireland - Terrestrial, Freshwater and Coastal - Second Edition’ (hereafter referred to as the ‘CIEEM Guidelines’) (CIEEM, 2018).
In line with the CIEEM Guidelines the terminology used within the chapter draws a clear distinction between the terms ‘impact’ and ‘effect’. For the purposes of the chapter these terms will be defined as followed:
The impact assessment has also been undertaken in accordance with the following guidance, where relevant:
The assessment covers the project site boundary and, where necessary, has extended beyond this to include ecological receptors which are linked via ecological pathways. This includes waterbodies within 500 metres of the site boundary, locally designated sites within 2 km and statutory designated sites within the surrounding 10 km.
The baseline ecological surveys that underpin this assessment have, as matter of best practice, been undertaken following published guidance from the relevant body. Between 2015 and 2019, a wealth of Phase 2 ecology surveys have been carried out on the site. The aim of these ongoing surveys was to keep the ecological baseline survey information up to date, to ensure that the conversations on mitigation and enhancements remained relevant.
The approach of using the historic data gathered over the last four years, together with the more recent 2019 data collected by Ecology, has been discussed and agreed with both Natural England and the Council.
A desk-based study was conducted in 2015 to gather information with respect to existing background data from the Isle of Wight Biodiversity Information Centre. A review of existing statutory sites of nature conservation interest, such as SSSIs, SPAs, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and NNRs, and non-statutory sites, such as Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs), was carried out to help indicate any existing nature conservation interest within 2 km of the project site (or 10 km for international designations).
All information received on species in the search area was reviewed and is summarised in this chapter.
eDNA Survey for Great Crested Newt
Water samples from the pond were collected during June 2019, by Ecology and sent for eDNA analysis, as per Biggs et al. (2014). Approximately 20 water samples were collected from around the pond perimeter. All samples were then pooled into a single bag which was then shaken for 15 seconds to thoroughly mix. Six aliquots were then pipetted into separate test tubes for final analysis by SureScreen Scientifics.
The site was systemically searched for evidence of badgers (i.e. setts, holes, latrines, hairs) by experienced ecologists throughout the 2019 survey season (whilst walking the site conducting other surveys). A total of one walkover survey was carried out, combined with camera trapping.
Bat Activity Surveys
As per good practice guidelines (Collins, J (ed) 2016) nine activity surveys were carried out between August and October (three per month). On each survey night, a route was slowly walked by two experienced bat surveyors, equipped with either heterodyne or time expansion bat detectors (Pettersson Ultrasonic Detector D 240X, Batlogger or the Bat Box Duet detector). The transect route followed included all of the habitat types encountered within the site boundary to ensure an accurate representation of the species present on site.
The number of bat passes along the transect was recorded, together with the species and time of detection. The direction in which the transect was walked was alternated on each night to avoid any bias due to time of night.
All bat passes were recorded, and all bats were identified to species level, where possible, on site. Echolocation calls were also recorded using an Edirol R09-HR recorder and subsequently analysed using computer software (BatSound Sound Analysis) for confirmation of species. Where possible, additional notes on size, flight height, type of flight (such as commuting, foraging, fast or slow) and direction of flight were also recorded.
Bat Trapping Surveys
Trapping was carried out on three occasions during 2017. All surveyors held Natural England bat survey licences appropriate to the tasks carried out.
Harp traps, all with lures, were set up in different locations across the site. All traps were checked every 15 minutes for captured bats. The bat calls emitted from the lure were changed every 15 minutes.
All traps were set up before sunset, with trapping commencing at sunset and continuing for at least two - three hours. Traps were positioned close to vegetation in locations where the vegetation limited the space through which bats could fly, such as overhanging tree branches and gaps in tree lines/hedgerows, which would therefore increase the chance of a bat flying into the trap.
Any bats caught were identified to species, with weight, sex and age recorded. All bats were then immediately released.
Bat activity can be strongly dependent on weather conditions. Wet and/or windy weather also makes the traps more visible. Therefore, the surveys were only carried out in favourable conditions when bat activity was deemed to be likely (dry, little to no wind and temperatures greater than 8ºC).
The surveys were carried out at an appropriate time of year. Therefore, there are not considered to be any constraints to any of the trapping surveys.
Bat Emergence Surveys
Six buildings were surveyed during the 2019 survey season, these were undertaken by Ecology, with the results passed to RPS for analysis. In order to comply with best practice guidelines (Collins, 2016) three emergence surveys were carried out on buildings considered to have high suitability, and two emergence surveys for buildings considered to have moderate suitability. The aim of these surveys was to determine the use of the buildings (if any) by roosting bats, the species assemblage on site and the egress locations of any bats emerging from the buildings.
Observations were made outside the buildings from where it was considered bats might emerge. The dusk survey commenced 15 minutes before sunset, and lasted for approximately two hours, in order to record any bats that may emerge from the buildings.
Time-expansion bat detectors (Pettersson D 240x, EM3+ and Elkon Batlogger) were used to record bat echolocation calls of any emerging bats and identify species where possible. Recordings were made using Edirol recording devices (R-09HR and R-05) and built in recorders within the detectors, which were later analysed using the computer software ‘BatSound’.
Surveys were carried out once a month in suitable weather from June to October 2019. Following the table of probability of finding dormice in the Dormouse Conservation Handbook (Table 5 – English Nature, 2006), this gives a score of 21, i.e. an acceptable level of survey.
The reptile surveys were carried out in accordance with the recommended methodology outlined in the Herpetofauna Workers’ Manual and Froglife’s Advice Sheet 10 (Froglife, 1999). The surveys were undertaken between May – June 2019 (an optimum time for such surveys) by experienced ecologists from Eagle Eye Ecology.
The following consultation has been undertaken in relation to the project.
|Date||Consultee and Issues Raised||How/ Where Addressed|
The approach to bat trapping surveys was agreed and considered acceptable.
|Details of the bat trapping surveys are included in this chapter of the ES.|
|September 2019||Council Ecology Officer:
The council generally agree with the scope set out for the ecology assessment.
The project should have due consideration of the veteran trees on site.
The increase in population and improvement of access to the ancient semi-natural woodlands could potentially increase the footfall through them.
It is advised that the Air Pollution Information System is used to identify critical loads for each pollutant on sensitive habitats to assess possible impacts from the project.
It will need to be demonstrated that development would not lead to harmful effects on designated sites as a result of nitrate enrichment. This will need to include an assessment of wastewater treatment and connection to services, as well as runoff associated with urban development.
|The assessment has been carried out as per the scope agreed with the ecology officer.
The chapter addresses air quality impacts throughout the chapter; on a site by site basis (where applicable).
The site will not drain into any designated sites and therefore, there is no need to include a nitrate neutrality assessment.
|September 2019||Natural England:
Natural England advises that the potential impact of the proposal upon features of nature conservation interest and opportunities for habitat creation/enhancement should be included within this assessment in accordance with appropriate guidance on such matters.
The ES should thoroughly assess the potential for the project to affect designated sites.
The ES should include an assessment of the likely impacts on sites of wildlife and geodiversity interests.
The assessment should include proposals for mitigation of any impacts and if appropriate, compensation measures.
The ES should assess the impact of all phases of the proposal on protected species (including, for example, great crested newts, reptiles, birds, water voles, badgers and bats).
Records of protected species should be sought from appropriate local biological record centres, nature conservation organisations, groups and individuals; and consideration should be given to the wider context of the site for example in terms of habitat linkages and protected species populations in the wider area, to assist in the impact assessment.
Natural England advises that a habitat survey (equivalent to Phase 2) is carried out on the site, in order to identify any important habitats present.
The development should seek if possible, to avoid adverse impact on sensitive areas for wildlife within the site, and if possible, provide opportunities for overall wildlife gain.
|The guidance relevant to the ecological assessment is outlined in this chapter of the ES.
The approach to assessment is set out in the Assessment Methodology section of this chapter.
Mitigation measures are included in the Mitigation Measures Adopted as Part of the Project section of this chapter and summarised in Chapter 2 (Project Description) of the ES.
Assessment Criteria and Assignment of Significance
The significance of likely effects from the project have been assessed in the context of the baseline condition (i.e. the site in April 2019), taking into account any anticipated changes in the baseline that may occur prior to the commencement of the project.
The assessment of the ecological effects of the Project focusses on ‘important ecological features' (IEFs). These are species and habitats that are valued in some way and could be affected by the project. Other IEFs may be present on or in the vicinity of the site but do not need to be considered because there is no potential for them to be affected significantly. The interaction of IEF sensitivity and impact magnitude informs the overall significance of the effect.
Once the importance of the ecological features was understood, and impacts on the features are characterised, the significance of the effect has been assessed.
Proposals that could result in cumulative impacts have been identified through the scoping process. Cumulative impacts have been addressed through consideration of the potential for nearby schemes to result in impacts on ecological features identified in the assessment.
Receptor Sensitivity / Value
Several factors have been taken into consideration when assessing the value of an ecological feature and whether it is considered important and therefore requires assessment.
The resources used to assess the value and importance of features also help to define the importance in the context of geographical scale. The CIEEM guidelines (CIEEM, 2018) state that significance of effects on ecological features should be qualified with reference to the appropriate geographic scale. Therefore, to provide a framework that is consistent for both assessing the importance of ecological features and determining the significance of effects, the importance of ecological features is described at one of the following geographic scales:
|Very High (International)||Very High (International) A feature (e.g. habitat or population) which is either unique or sufficiently unusual to be considered as being one of the highest quality examples in an international/national context, such that the site is likely to be designated as a site of European importance (e.g. SAC).
Habitats or species that form part of the cited interest within an internationally protected site, such as those designated under the Habitats Directive (e.g. SACs) or other international convention (e.g. Ramsar site)
|High (National)||High (National) Habitats or species that form part of the cited interest within a nationally designated site, such as an SSSI or a NNR.
A feature (e.g., habitat or population) which is either unique or sufficiently unusual to be considered as being one of the highest quality examples in a national context for which the site could potentially be designated as a SSSI.
Presence of UKBAP habitats or species, where the action plan states that all areas of representative habitat or individuals of the species should be protected, including national importance.
|Medium (Regional)||Medium (Regional) Including regional or county importance.
A feature (e.g. habitat or population), which is either unique or sufficiently unusual to be considered as being of nature conservation value from a county to regional level.
Habitats or species that form part of the cited interest of a LNR, or some local-level designated sites, such as a Local Wildlife Site (LWS), also referred to as a non-statutory SINC or the equivalent, e.g., Ancient Woodland designation.
Presence of Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) habitats or species, where the action plan states that all areas of representative habitat or individuals of the species should be protected.
|Low (Local)||Low (Local) A feature (e.g. habitat or population) that is of nature conservation value in a local context only, with insufficient value to merit a formal nature conservation designation. This would include features of local importance.|
|Negligible (Site)||This would include features of site level importance|
The valuation of sites takes full account of existing value systems such as SSSIs and LWS designations. Judgement is required for the valuation of sites of less than county importance.
The valuation of habitats considers parameters including extent, diversity, naturalness, rarity, fragility, typicalness, recorded history, position in an ecological or geographical unit, current condition and potential importance.
Criteria for the valuation of habitats and plant communities include Annex III of the Habitats Directive, guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs and criteria used by local planning authorities and the Wildlife Trusts for the selection of local sites. Legal protection status is also a consideration for habitats where these are features of statutory designated sites.
Species populations are valued on the basis of their size, recognised status (such as recognised through published lists of species of conservation concern and designation of BAP status) and legal protection status. For example, bird populations exceeding 1% of published information on biogeographic populations are considered to be of international importance, those exceeding 1% of published data for national populations are considered to be of national importance, etc.
In assigning importance to species populations, it is important to consider the status of the species in terms of any legal protection to which it is subject. However, it is also important to consider other factors such as its distribution, rarity, population trends, and the size of the population which would be affected. Thus, for example, whilst the great crested newt is protected under the Habitats Directive, and therefore conservation of the species is of significance at the international level, this does not mean that every population of great crested newt is internationally important and thus of very high value. It is important to consider the particular population in its context. Thus, in assigning values to species the geographic scale at which they are important has been considered. The assessments of value rely on the professional opinion and judgement of experienced ecologists.
Due regard has been paid to the legal protection afforded to such species in the development of mitigation measures to be implemented during construction and operation of the project. For EPSs there is a requirement that a scheme should not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range, i.e. to maintain favourable conservation status, a scheme should not affect the long-term availability of sufficient habitat required by the population, the long-term viability of the population, or the long-term natural range of the species.
Assessing feature values requires consideration of both existing and future predicted baseline conditions, and therefore, the description and valuation of ecological features takes account of any likely changes, including for example, trends in the population size or distribution of species, likely changes to the extent of habitats and the effects of other proposed developments or land use changes.
Magnitude of Impact
Impacts may be described in terms of changes to the structure or function of ecological resource and are characterised according to a number of parameters where these are relevant to understanding ecological effects. These parameters include:
The table below gives the magnitude categories and descriptors used in this assessment, taking into account the guidance published by the CIEEM guidelines.
|High||Loss of resource and/or quality and integrity of resource; severe damage to key characteristics, features or elements (Adverse).
Large scale or major improvement of resource quality; extensive restoration or enhancement; major improvement of attribute quality (Beneficial).
|Medium||Loss of resource, but not adversely affecting the integrity; partial loss of/damage to key characteristics, features or elements (Adverse).
Benefit to, or addition of, key characteristics, features or elements; improvement of attribute quality (Beneficial).
|Low||Some measurable change in attributes, quality or vulnerability; minor loss of, or alteration to, one (maybe more) key characteristics, features or elements
Minor benefit to, or addition of, one (maybe more) key characteristics, features or elements; some beneficial impact on attribute or a reduced risk of negative impact occurring (Beneficial).
|Negligible||Very minor loss or detrimental alteration to one or more characteristics, features or elements (Adverse).
Very minor benefit to or positive addition of one or more characteristics, features or elements (Beneficial).
|No change||No loss or alteration of characteristics, features or elements; no observable impact in either direction.
Significance of Ecological Effects
The Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) in this chapter follows the CIEEM Guidelines (CIEEM, 2018). The updated guidance aims to promote good practice in the assessment of ecological impacts in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments in the UK.
Effects are described as being of significance at a geographical scale using the same framework as is used in determining the ecological value of features.
This approach acknowledges that low magnitude impacts may be adverse or positive at a geographical scale smaller than the resource that they are impacting, and that therefore, the significance of the effect may not reflect the importance of the receptor at the geographical scale.
For consistency between disciplines the overall significance of an effect is expressed as negligible, minor, moderate, major or substantial, based on the definitions below.
A subjective judgement of significance is made based on the interaction between the value of the ecological feature (at the geographical scale) and the magnitude of the impact.
Broadly, effects are considered significant where they affect the structure of sites, habitats and ecosystems or the conservation status of habitats and species, with the scale of that significance dependent upon the balance between the sensitivity of the feature and the magnitude of impact (see Table 5.4).
Impacts resulting in a significance of effect which is minor or lower are not considered significant in EIA terms.
Other proposed developments that could result in cumulative impacts (when considered alongside the project) have been identified through the scoping process. Cumulative impacts have been addressed through consideration of the potential for other proposed developments to result in impacts on ecological features identified in the assessment, and which could contribute to the combined impact on that feature, which would be greater than that anticipated from the project alone. The cumulative effects are presented later in this chapter.
Limitations of the Assessment
All of the surveys were undertaken at an appropriate time of year and have been completed over multiple seasons. Therefore, there are not considered to be any constraints to the surveys or assessment.
This section presents the baseline conditions for the site in 2019, based upon the findings of the survey work.
Phase 1 Habitat Survey
The results of the Phase 1 Habitat Survey are briefly described below. This has also been confirmed via multiple site walkovers since the original Ecological Appraisal.
The site comprised mainly of a number of improved grassland fields. All the fields varied in their sward height, and the presence of cows in a number of these indicated a rotational grazing regime.
All of these fields consisted of a similar make-up of species, which was dominated by perennial rye grass Lolium perenne and annual meadow grass Poa annua. Other frequent and occasional species included daisy Bellis perennis, cats-ear Hypochaeris radicata, creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens, spear thistle Cirsium vulgare and bristly ox-tongue Helmintia echioides.
A woodland/copse area was present on the northern boundary of the site. This consisted of hornbeam Carpinus betulus, oak Quercus sp, ash Fraxinus excelsior, blackthorn Prunus spinosa and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna.
A number of species-poor hedgerows were present around the site, bisecting and bordering the improved grassland fields. Generally, these were all well managed and regularly maintained. Dominant species across all of the hedgerows at the site included hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble and honeysuckle. Some of the hedgerows had scattered trees present, species which included oak, lime and sycamore.
Dense Scrub / Ruderal Vegetation
Patches of both dense scrub and ruderal vegetation were present surrounding the site, mainly bordering the field margins. Species comprised bramble and common nettles, in the majority.
Several mature trees were scattered across the centre of the southern section of the site. These were largely dominated by oak.
Phase 2 Species Surveys
Bat activity surveys were undertaken between August and October 2019, the results of these surveys were largely in keeping with the historic surveys for the site. Common and soprano pipistrelles were the most frequently recorded species, along with myotis, noctule and long-eared. On a single occasion, in October, a barbastelle was recorded during the activity transects.
The bat trapping surveys were undertaken across six locations on site, between May – September 2017. A range of species were found, including common pipistrelle, long-eared, natterer and whiskered bats. Full data of such surveys can be found in Appendix 5.2 (Ecology Survey Report).
Bat Emergence / Re-entry
Emergence surveys of six buildings (building numbers B1, B2, B8, B9, B10 and B11, Figure 5.4) were undertaken by Ecology during 2019 to support the application. This found B1, B4, B10 and B11 to have bats roosting within them, a combination of common pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles and long-eared bats. Therefore, roosting bats have been considered as a receptor within this assessment. Full details can be found in Appendix 5.2 (Ecology Survey Report).
Reptile surveys undertaken by Ecology Environmental Solutions during the 2019 survey season found a population of slow worms to be present on site. No other reptiles were encountered on the site.
Future Baseline Conditions
In the absence of the project, it would be expected that the features in the existing site would remain largely unchanged (consisting of the farmland, woodland and the existing properties).
Climate change could influence the future ecological baseline situation at the site in the longer term. For example, an increase in temperatures may place increased stress on ecosystems within designated sites in the local area. However, ecological change associated with climate will be gradual and long term. Consequently, within the operational lifetime of the project any changes to ecosystems are predicted to be extremely small.
The following measures are included as part of the project.
Construction working hours would be 07:00 to 19:00 hours Monday to Friday, 07:00 to 13:00 hours on Saturday and at no time on Sundays or on public or bank holidays. Therefore, there would be no artificial lighting on the construction site between 19:00 and 07:00 to ensure there is no artificial light spill which could impact species (e.g. foraging and commuting behaviours of bats).
Any retained trees, woodland copses and hedgerows will be protected with tree protection fencing, in accordance with BS3587 (British Standards Institute, 2012); locations can be seen in the Arboricultural Impact Assessment and Tree Protection Plans, which accompany this application.
Standard best practice dust-suppression methods would be used throughout the construction phase of the project. These measures would be implemented through the Code of Construction Practice (CoCP) and would control any impacts as a result of dust settlement on habitats and species.
Vegetation Clearance/Building Demolition
The presence of dormice has been confirmed historically within the hedgerows on site and the species is known to be difficult to identify in hedgerows due to their low population density. Therefore, to comply with the relevant legislation, any dormouse habitat would be removed under licence from Natural England and this would be overseen by a suitably qualified ecologist. Vegetation removal would be timed to avoid impacts to this species with over ground removed over winter and the stumps/roots removed once the dormice are out of hibernation.
The majority of hedgerow understorey habitat suitable for reptiles is would be retained. However, appropriate sensitive habitat clearance methods would be used, particularly towards the centre of the site. This would include a two-stage strimming approach of the areas of habitat to be cleared, pushing reptiles into surrounding retained habitat. Works would be undertaken while reptiles are active (March to October) in suitable weather conditions (temperature >10oC, little/no rain, light wind).
Project Design Measures
Protected Species / Habitats
The potential for presence of protected species and important habitats was considered early in the design and construction process. The following measures have been incorporated into the design and layout of the project to help avoid or reduce impacts on biodiversity, enhance, where possible, and form part of the landscape strategy for the site:
Due to the presence of roosting bats on site, works to roosts would need to be undertaken under appropriate licence from Natural England. The licence would include an appropriate method statement setting out the mitigation to be provided to ensure the favourable conservation status of the species would be maintained. Such mitigation would include the soft-stripping of bat roost features under the supervision of a suitably-licensed ecologist at an appropriate time of year. It would also comprise the provision of a range of bat boxes on trees and buildings to provide mitigation habitat for roosting bats on the site as a result of the loss of roosts.
During operation, the design would focus on using low level bollard lighting, which would be kept to a maximum of 1 lux, particularly towards the boundaries and along prominent green corridors, to ensure these areas can continue to act as foraging and commuting routes.
Where possible, the use of white LED lamps with a ‘cool’ colour temperature would be selected as this has lower attractiveness to insects and would be less likely to attract bats away from darker areas where they would more routinely forage (Fure, 2012).
Any lighting that is required at a higher level would be suitably cowled and directional.
Grassland management, along with woodland edge planting in the green space, would enhance the value of the on-site habitats as bat flight lines and foraging areas.
Further enhancements would include planting a range of night scented flowering plants that would attract night time insects, which in turn the bats would feed on. A list of suitable plants is provided in ‘Landscape and urban design for bats and biodiversity’ (Gunnell et al., 2012). The majority of these species are native, but there is a small group of non-natives also included within the list, due to their value for wildlife. Where possible, these species are included within the final masterplanning in order to enhance the biodiversity value of the site for bats.
This section identifies and assesses the likely effects during construction of the project.
Construction details are detailed in Chapter 2 (Project Description) of the ES. In terms of ecological impacts, the project may potentially cause:
If not specifically evaluated, it is considered that there is no potential for an effect to occur.
The habitats on site comprise species-poor improved grassland, scattered trees, species-poor hedgerows, woodland, ruderal vegetation, amenity grassland and dense scrub.
The majority of the habitats to be lost to the project are of limited ecological value. This includes grassland, hardstanding, improved grassland and dense scrub. There will also be some minor hedgerow loss to facilitate road creation.
All of these habitats are common within the wider landscape and are not considered to have an ecological value beyond the site level (i.e. negligible value). Therefore, their specific loss would have no ecological impact and is not considered significant in terms of EIA. However, these habitats support a range of protected species, which are discussed below.
Bats – Foraging and Commuting (Medium Value)
Small areas of bat foraging and commuting habitat would be lost to facilitate the project, including a number of species-poor hedgerows and scattered trees. Surveys of the areas to be lost have found a number of species to be using these areas, including common pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles, long-eared bats, myotis bats, noctules and barbastelles.
Therefore, the site has been classified as being of medium value to foraging and commuting bats, mainly due to the off site adjacent woodland and connecting linear features, the majority of which are to be retained.
Only very small areas of foraging/commuting habitat are to be lost, mainly a small number of species-poor hedgerows and scattered trees. The woodland blocks are to be retained (and ultimately enhanced) such that they can still be utilised by bats. The implementation of the mitigation described in the ‘Measures Adopted as Part of the Project’ section above would ensure that, during construction, the ability of bats to use the woodland blocks or areas of grassland on site is not compromised. As such, the overall magnitude of impact in terms of habitat loss would be negligible, resulting in a minor adverse effect (not significant).
Bats – Roosting (Medium Value)
During the 2019 emergence and re-entry surveys, four roosts on site were found to support low conservation status bat roosts. These are to be removed to facilitate the project. However, in order to support the Natural England European Protected Species License for the site, mitigation would be required, in the form of additional bat boxes. This would result in an overall gain in the provision of suitable roosting areas within the site, and as such, is seen to be beneficial.
As such, it is considered likely that the magnitude of the impacts of the project on this feature of medium value would be low. This would result in a minor beneficial effect (significant).
This would lead to a no change magnitude of impact and therefore there would be no effect.
Disturbance from People and Plant Movements and Noise
The movement of people and plant and associated noise during the construction phase has the potential to cause disturbance to nesting birds. Identifying the impact on different species and individuals is difficult as their tolerance to visual disturbance and their ability to habituate would vary. However, it is likely that a degree of disturbance may occur during construction.
Such magnitude of impact on a receptor of low value would be negligible and therefore would result in a minor adverse significance of effect (not significant).
Reptiles (Low Value)
During the 2019 surveys, a low population of reptiles (slow worms) was identified on site, mainly utilising the field margins and hedgerow understoreys.
Clearance is likely to be limited to the hedgerow understorey in the centre of the site. As such, appropriate sensitive habitat clearance would be followed requiring two-stage strimming of the areas of habitat, pushing reptiles into surrounding retained habitat.
Overall, therefore, the provision of this new habitat creation would lead to a negligible magnitude of impact for reptiles, which would lead to an effect of minor beneficial significance (not significant).
As no significant effects have been identified, no further mitigation is required.
As no significant effects have been identified, no future monitoring is considered necessary. Notwithstanding this, requirements for future monitoring of the bat and dormice populations would be required as part of the Natural England licencing commitments, to ensure that the mitigation in place has been successful.
Accidents and/or Disasters
During the construction phase there is risk of accidental damage to the ecological features proposed to be retained as part of the project. In order to minimise the risk of such an occurrence, these retained areas (the woodland, scattered trees and hedgerows) would be protected via tree protection fencing, in accordance with BS5837.
All other good practise measures in relation to construction dust, lighting and pollution would be adhered to, with spill prevention kits on site. Assuming that all good practise measures are adhered to then no accidents or disasters are anticipated to occur on any of the retained and protected habitats on site.
Operational activities may potentially cause the following long-term impacts:
These effects are considered below.
Operational impacts on the habitats created during construction and retained post development could include degradation due to visitor pressure and poor or inappropriate management. However, the implementation of a suitable green space Management Strategy (including for visitors) would ensure that such degradation does not occur. The Management Strategy would include details of how visitors would be managed, how the habitats present would be managed (in the long-term), and any ongoing maintenance actions, which would ultimately prevent negative impacts on the other retained habitats. On this basis, there would be no impact to the new habitats created during the operation of the development and therefore all effects are not significant.
Bats – Foraging and Commuting (Medium Value)
The design of the project will enhance the site for foraging and roosting bats. The mature tree lines on site are to be retained where possible. This would maintain and enhance connectivity across the site, linking the site with the surrounding landscape, and ensure that bat foraging on site can continue during the operational phase. Also, the use of SuDS would include the provision of new wet grassland while the provision of significant new meadow/woodland planting within the green space would ensure that the project delivers an enhancement with respect to bat foraging.
Overall, the magnitude of the impact of the operation of the project on bat foraging/commuting habitat would be negligible, leading to an effect of minor beneficial significance (not significant).
Bats – Roosting (Medium Value)
Lighting of roost sites can discourage bats from using the roost and/or delay emergence times. However, a site-wide lighting strategy would ensure that lighting within the completed site is of a type that would not significantly impact wildlife - bats, in particular. Some bat species (including the common and soprano pipistrelles identified on site) would forage around anthropogenic light sources.
The project would include focused lighting, that is light focused to the ground and avoiding spread into more sensitive areas including potential foraging and commuting routes as well as bat roosts. Any lighting that is required at a higher level would be suitably cowled and directional.
The project would include substantial new roosting opportunities within the completed design, increasing the roosting provision available on site compared to that present currently through the use of bat bricks/tubes within the fabric of new buildings, and attached to mature retained trees within the woodland blocks / scattered trees and around the site.
Further, once development is complete, it is unlikely that there would be any disturbance of bat roosts from the operational phase of the project as any new roosts would be located on suitable mature trees or within suitably-placed bricks/boxes.
The enhancements to areas of open space within the project would substantially enhance the site with respect to foraging bats, through the provision of native tree and scrub planting, new grassland, and a SuDS feature.
Therefore, the operational impact on this medium value receptor would be low beneficial, leading to a minor beneficial significance of effect (not significant).
Reptiles (Low Value)
A low population of reptiles (slow worm) are present on site. The provision of significant new areas of reptile habitat within the final landscape design, particularly within the SANG area would ensure that, overall, there would be a net gain in reptile habitat.
As such, it is considered likely that the magnitude of the impacts of the development on this feature of low value would be low. This would result in a minor beneficial effect (not significant).
As no effects have been identified as significant, no further mitigation is required.
Future monitoring is likely to be required associated with the Natural England development licences for bats and dormice. Details would be specified within the licence application themselves but are likely to include monitoring of any permanent bat boxes installed as mitigation for the loss of habitat.
Monitoring usually ranges from between 2- and 5-years post construction, with the results submitted annually to Natural England as part of the licence return.
The site should be checked biannually for the regrowth of the invasive three-cornered garlic, with any regrowth treated, as appropriate.
The habitats created will be subject to a Landscape Management Plan, which will provide details on the ongoing management, monitoring and maintenance of the site.
Accidents and/or Disasters
No accidents or disasters are anticipated to effect ecological receptors during the operation of the project.
Potential Changes to the Assessment as a Result of Climate Change
Taking into account the information identified in the future baseline section above, it is highly unlikely that the significance of any effects described above would change as a result of climate change since the effects of climate change on ecology occur over a much longer period than the operational lifetime of the project.
Any effect that arises as a result of incremental changes caused by other proposed developments (which are reasonably foreseeable) in combination with the effects of the project is a “cumulative” effect.
A review of proposed or possible developments that may have a cumulative impact with the project has been undertaken and used to inform this ES. Details of the projects and land allocations are provided in Appendix 4.3 of the ES.
In relation to ecology and nature conservation impacts, the development schemes and land allocations which have been identified has having the potential to impact cumulatively with the project and have therefore been examined as part of the assessment.
There are no planning applications located immediately adjacent to the project site. The applications will include mitigation for the loss of habitat as for species present within the site. Therefore, significant cumulative effects are not considered likely.
Deliverable housing allocations have been identified in the area surrounding the site within the Strategic Housing Land Allocation document. No further details on these allocations have been given. However, it could be expected that recreational pressure on the Solent designated sites could potentially be a cumulative impact of the developments, were they to come forward.
Overall, it is not anticipated that there would be any significant cumulative effects with any of the other developments described above.
There are no additional inter-relationships between ecology and other topics that have not already been considered as part of the discussions above.
Construction phase residual effects on ecology would be positive as there would be a net gain in habitat creation of biodiversity value.
The site pre-development is of a good biodiversity value, but when this is combined with the habitat enhancements which are to be delivered before / during construction, it would provide an increase in the overall biodiversity value of the site, with a minor beneficial impact on commuting, foraging and roosting bats and reptiles.
The overall effect from the operational phase is therefore assessed as minor beneficial significance, given the overall enhancements which are to be included within the project for commuting, foraging and roosting bats and reptiles.
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