When working onsite, surveyors must be prepared for nature to disrupt the natural course of their work. Our assistant building surveyor Andrew found this out the hard way when he was working on a remedial works instruction in St. Helens.
Whilst a routine tree felling and replanting project requires a felling licence when felling five or more cubic metres, the Forestry Commission’s guidelines specified that Trident must comply with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to protect European Protect Species (“EPS”) and their breeding sites, habitats, and resting places.
As part of the EPS checklist, the area had to be tracked on a map to see whether the area fell within range for Great Crested Newts (GCN), which it did. The remainder of the EPS checklist guided us through the process of risk mitigation through the following steps:
- We needed to check the National Biodiversity Network’s records to determine whether there was a history of GCNs in the area – our team was lucky to find no evidence, and so moved on to the next stage;
- The GCNs were in the ‘dispersal phase’ of their lives when Andrew and the team were working on the project, but a land survey showed no examples of habitat such as ponds or waterways where they could have lived, nor was it home to any suitable vegetation that GCNs use for habitation or resting;
- On top of that, the team had to consider all ponds in the vicinity of the site to determine the risks associated with GCN dispersal onto the site. The team referred to the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the United Kingdom’s (ARG UK) Advice Note 5, which states that the suitability of a site for habitation or resting should not consider ponds that are separated from the site by physical barriers. The site in question was separated from all ponds in the area by natural and man-made barriers, ultimately eliminating any concern.
The team therefore concluded that works could proceed without an EPS licence, with the residual risk being determined to be manageable:
- The Guidance of Managing Great Crested Newts in England advised that extra care should be taken when using machinery near the habitats. But the area of trees to be felled was not in proximity to a pond, nor in sight of a pond, whilst no great crested newts had been spotted in ponds within the vicinity.
- Contractors were required to adopt mitigation measures to remain vigilant throughout the project and cease work immediately if any signs of habitation or presence of GCNs are observed, and the Forestry Commission notified.
As well as no great crested newts, surveys were undertaken to conclude that there was no recorded presence of bats or suitable roosting sites, thereby expediting the felling project which allowed for felling and replanting works to complete on-time and under budget.
If you’d like to hear more about this project, please contact Andrew Prince