Build August PDF

Build Magazine 40 Since starting up in 2007, Avian Ecology’s Director Howard Fearn has built a highly successful independent ecology consultancy. The Company’s strong reputation in the renewables and infrastructure sectors has allowed steady diversification of its services and the team now offers expertise across all areas of species and habitat surveys and assessment for all development sectors. oward considers the key to delivering a specialist service is simple. “We help deliver successful projects by integrating business development and the natural environment, working with the whole client team and external interested parties. Our particular skills lie in delivering workable and sustainable solutions for our clients where wildlife may be affected by a project. We fully understand commercial requirements and aspirations and ensure these are delivered in a robust, compliant and defensible way which minimises costs and risks. We always provide an adaptive approach and inform clients of all available options; it is our role to find a solution”. Ecology consultancy is undergoing significant change, reflecting client markets such as energy and housing, plus of course the evolving nature of legislation and policy and the understandable desire to reduce red tape. The vote for the UK to leave the European Union has led many to think that change is imminent for wildlife legislation; however, as much of the UK wildlife is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and because EU directives are transposed into UK law, it is unlikely that there will be any sudden changes in levels of protection. For the foreseeable future at least, it is business as usual. The continuing challenge is to enable progressive and sustainable development which benefits society, whilst also conserving and enhancing our natural heritage, which often requires imaginative and innovative approaches. Regardless of the future legislative and planning framework, Avian Ecology will continue to adapt to change and to adopt new innovations. Ecology can be a critical decision factor for planning applications and development programmes, so early understanding of possible issues, and how to comply with legislation and policy can be crucial to the success of a project. “We provide our clients with pragmatic advice and solutions compatible with the operational needs of a project and work with the entire client team to deliver ecological solutions that are integrated with all aspects of the project design. Our many returning clients show that our approach works.” The ecology team prepares Ecological Assessments, Habitat Management Plans as well as BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes reports, and provides aftercare packages such as Ecological Clerks of Work to satisfy Regulators, deliver S106 Agreements and discharge planning conditions. As ecological expertise and experience readily transfers across projects, the team provides a ‘start-to-finish’ service for housing and commercial developments, road and rail schemes, energy and utilities projects as well as public sector commissions. “Our fastest growing area of work is in the housing and infrastructure sectors, where development continues apace, but in addition over the last three years we successfully delivered ecological support to over 500 large scale solar PV and wind energy schemes across the UK on behalf of over twenty different clients.” Avian’s wide client list includes Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon Homes, Morris Homes, Keepmoat Ltd., Savills, Pegasus Planning Group, Axis PED, Landmarc Solutions (MoD projects), Emery Planning Partnership, Lightsource, United Utilities, SP Energy Networks, An Bord Pleanála (the Irish planning inspectorate), MouchelFairhurst JV, Burnley and Lancaster City Councils, and a wide range of other developers and public bodies across all sectors. “Our projects are located across the UK. Whilst Avian’s main office is in Warrington, we also have a satellite office in Glasgow and work regularly in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. In addition to our in- house team, we are able to draw upon a range of highly skilled associates and sub-contractors and provide experienced ecological surveyors based in the region of the scheme, so minimising costs.” The Avian team fully understand that relationships are crucial to delivering successful projects “Our extensive experience in negotiating with regulators and non-statutory consultees means we develop strong liaison and consultation relationships, which are often critical to complex or controversial planning applications. Our reputation is strong and, even when we are forced to stand ‘toe-to-toe’ with Specialist Surveys for a Greener Tomorrow decision makers, then it is done from a point of mutual respect!” Like any successful business, Avian Ecology keeps a sharp focus on the future, both in terms of changes and also developing markets. “We constantly look ahead to understand emerging policy or legislation along with innovative solutions to conserve biodiversity as part of sustainable development; we are then able to provide our clients with briefings to help them anticipate new requirements or alternative approaches. For example, great crested newts (GCN) have full legislative protection as a European Protected Species (EPS). Their presence is a material planning consideration for any project which may affect ponds or nearby land across much of the UK. It is important to consider GCN early in any project so as to avoid long, and often unnecessary, delays and costs. After adopting the new Environmental DNA or eDNA survey method as soon as it was approved in 2014, we have the in-depth experience to advise clients of the most effective approach for individual projects and obtaining licences where necessary.” More recently, as the regulatory focus moves towards a reduction in paperwork-based compliance, Natural England is introducing low impact ‘class’ licences for bats and great crested newts (both European Protected Species) and ‘organisational’ licences to simplify the often lengthy licensing process for participating organisations. In addition, consultations have taken place regarding possible policy changes which may also change the way developers can deliver species mitigation and compensation in the future. “We are closely involved in these changes, providing commentary and advice so clients can take them into account as part of their forward planning.” There are many advantages for developers in making ecology and biodiversity an integrated part of their projects; Avian Ecology’s ambition is to find new and better ways to help make this happen. H Construction