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Projects

Arboriculture

Tree constraints in development

Client: Defence Estates/ Land Securities
Location: South East England
Scale: 320 ha

The brief

Defence Estates/ Land Securities are applying for outline planning permission to develop a 320ha area of land on the Hoo Peninsula, north of Rochester, Kent. The site was formerly the home of Chattenden Barracks and training area and Lodge Hill Camp and training area. It also includes areas of Chattenden Woods, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). We were asked to provide ecological and arboricultural advice and surveys for input into the masterplan, and, as part of this, to produce the ecology chapters for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to support the planning submission.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Thomson Ecology has been involved since the start of the project, gaining a full understanding of the existing biodiversity of the site and helping to design the masterplan.
  • We undertook an arboricultural survey to BS5837:2005 over an area of 320ha and including survey of over 2000 trees, 130 groups of trees and 130 wooded areas.
  • The resulting report and Tree Constraints Plan were used to inform the site layout at the masterplanning stage.
  • We provided support and ecological advice to the planning authorities at all stages.
  • We liaised and negotiated with the statutory authorities.

Recommendations and outcomes

The redevelopment of the site is expected to deliver a maximum of 4535 residential dwellings, employment and retail facilities, schools, health centres, sports areas and public open space.

The development is currently in the planning stages.

“Thomson Ecology are experts in their field. They understand the masterplanning and EIA processes and deliver practical and informed solutions in a timely manner to enable protection and enhancement of wildlife to be a key feature of the development. They are great team members to have on board.”
Stephen Neal, Senior Development Manager, Land Securities

Tree consultancy, St Albans

Client: St Albans District Council
Location: St Albans, Herts

The brief

To cover periods of staff resourcing issues and deal with a backlog of enquiries, we have periodically provided specialist arboricultural consultancy cover for St Albans District Council.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Provided a highly qualified and experienced arboriculturist for extended periods to provide tree-related consultancy services
  • Undertook tree hazard assessments and made management recommendations for council-owned trees
  • Utilised the Council’s own tree management system, WoodPlan, to record enquiries, incidents, inspections and management recommendations
  • Assessed applications for works to trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders, and within a designated Conservation Area, and issued decision letters
  • Provided input on planning applications with tree-related issues and worked closely with case officers in the planning department

The outcome

We successfully provided the arboricultural consultancy services required by the Council until the resourcing issues were resolved.

Urban tree growth studies, Nationwide

Client: Forest Research
Location: Nationwide

The brief

As part of a study into the growth rates of urban trees Thomson Ecology were commissioned by Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission, to collect core samples of four common tree species.

The trees were to be identified and sampled within the city limits of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham and Peterborough.

The project involved us locating trees, according to the project criteria, in each of the designated cities and taking cores, soil samples and survey data for each of them.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We ran a training course for our surveyors in coring, soil assessment and mensuration techniques required to undertake the survey.
  • We created a bespoke survey form covering all of the size and health features for each tree required by Forest Research.
  • The survey form was uploaded to our hand-held mobile mapper units by our in-house GIS specialists with a base map of each city.
  • The mobile mappers were used by our surveyors for accurately and consistently capturing survey data (diameter at breast height, height, canopy width, height to crown base, percentage canopy missing, percentage dieback, crown exposure) and GPS location of each surveyed tree.
  • We liaised with the local authority tree officers from each city to identify areas where trees suitable for the survey would be present.
  • We rapidly mobilised teams of surveyors from several of our offices country-wide to complete the project on time.
  • Approximately 165 suitable trees were located and sampled in parks throughout each of the survey cities. In total, 825 trees were sampled.
  • Electronic survey results were provided to Forest Research on a weekly basis, following a strict quality assurance process.
  • All the sample cores were given a unique reference number and delivered securely to Forest Research, and the locations of each sampled tree sent as GIS shape files.

The outcome

We successfully delivered the project within the tight timeframe given, and to the standard required, through working closely with Forest Research and Tree Officers within each city.

Kieron J. Doick, Acting Science Group Leader, said:

“The project was managed professionally, with the required updates performed clearly, concisely and on-time. The field work was delivered to a high standard, with surveyors communicating and presenting themselves professionally – important as they were also representing our organisation; the quality of the fieldwork was first-rate.”

Commercial and residential

Biodiversity masterplanning

Client: Land Securities
Location: Hoo Peninsula, Kent

The brief

Thomson Ecology was appointed to assist Land Securities with the planning application for the Lodge Hill development. We undertook all of the ecological work needed to take the project from its inception through to making the final planning application.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

The Lodge Hill development site is owned by the Ministry of Defence but the site is now surplus to requirements. The application area is c.326ha, including green infrastructure.

The development proposal is for a mixed use settlement comprising up to 5000 residential units, business and retail floor space, four schools, a community facility and several other elements included to make Lodge Hill a complete community.

The site contains some important habitats including ancient woodland and significant populations of protected species. It was also found to support nationally significant numbers of breeding nightingale and a noteworthy grassland type. As a consequence, Natural England designated most of the development site as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) after the initial planning application was made. Nevertheless, it was decided to press on with the development proposal and re-submit the planning application taking into account Natural England’s decision.

Thomson Ecology was involved in the Lodge Hill project for seven years. Our work included:

  • A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and a suite of protected species surveys to inform the development masterplan
  • Attendance at masterplan meetings and assisting in the design of the development in order to minimise the impacts on biodiversity
  • Attendance at the public examination of Medway Local Plan, of which Lodge Hill was a key component
  • Production of the ecology chapter of the Environmental Statement, plus revisions following the SSSI designation
  • Production of a shadow Appropriate Assessment dealing with potential effects on nearby Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
  • Preparation of mitigation plans including plans designed to compensate for the partial loss of the SSSI and avert impacts on the SPAs
  • Input to the planning statement and the preparation of draft planning obligations, including a Section 106 agreement
  • Assisting Land Securities in negotiations over the SSSI notification, including challenging the arguments put forward by Natural England
  • Representing Land Securities at a meeting with the Secretary of State for Defence

Recommendations and outcomes

Medway Council were satisfied with the ecological mitigation and compensation package and granted planning permission for the Lodge Hill development but referred their decision to the Secretary of State, who decided that the development should be called-in for a public inquiry.

“Thomson Ecology are experts in their field. They understand the masterplanning and EIA processes and deliver practical and informed solutions in a timely manner to enable protection and enhancement of wildlife to be a key feature of the development. They are great team members to have on board.”
Stephen Neal Senior Development Manager Land Securities

Corporate biodiversity strategy

Client: Lend Lease
Location: London

The brief

Lend Lease is an international leader in property and infrastructure. They required a solution on how to meet external drivers of legislation and regulation based on two key factors:

  1. It had to be in line with their internal policy on “Enhancing Biodiversity and Land Use”
  2. It had to maximise site level biodiversity for their projects

To assist Lend Lease Thomson Ecology was asked to design a Biodiversity Management Strategy Framework to cover the following asset types:

  • Leased tenancy
  • Asset under management
  • Asset under development

What Thomson did for the client

Informed by baseline ecological surveys of Lend Lease assets, we developed a biodiversity matrix that could be routionely reviewed and updated. The framework provided for site specific objectives, strategies and plans and included:

  • Baseline ecological status of each asset.
  • Legal and planning requirements and existing commitments for biodiversity.
  • Relevant national, regional and local BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) objectives for habitats and species.
  • Recommendations for mitigation measures at intended development sites.
  • Outline of measures to enhance the biodiversity value of each asset.

Recommendations and outcomes

Once the document templates were produced, we provided training to Lend Lease Sustainability Managers to assist them in completing the Strategy Documents and maximising site level biodiversity.

Janet Kidner, Head of Sustainability for Lend Lease, said:
“Thomson Ecology was very responsive to our needs. The team developed a flexible framework for biodiversity and then conducted a workshop to explain to our Sustainability Managers how to implement the framework. We are very pleased with the results .”

Environmental statement and bat surveys

Client: Dorchester Group
Location: Oxfordshire

The brief

Dorchester Group are proposing to redevelop the residential and office buildings of a former American airbase. The development will include residential and office buildings and facilities for education including green space.

Before planning submission the client needed to carry our ecological surveys for protected species, including bat surveys on 150 buildings.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Thomson Ecology guided the client in negotiations with the local planning authority’s ecologist to agree a pragmatic survey programme and methodology going forwards.
  • Rapid assessments of each of the buildings were undertaken in order to update previous surveys.
  • Dusk emergence and dawn return to roost surveys and internal inspections were subsequently conducted on buildings with high potential for bats.
  • Early liaison with the client and the local planning authority enabled efficient project planning, allowing all of the surveys to be completed in the optimal period and within one season.
  • We produced a comprehensive report setting out the methodology and results.
  • We also provided advice on the legal and planning policy issues and recommendations on how to address these.
  • We wrote the ecology chapter of the Environmental Statement, which was submitted to the local planning authority as part of the overall planning application.

The outcome

Outline planning permission has been granted with no ecology queries raised.

Landscape architecture, commercial development

Client: Eskmuir Properties
Location: Surrey

The brief

Our brief was to provide a high quality setting with ‘wow’ factor, and with ample parking to maximise rental values of the four new environmentally high-performance commercial buildings. The main entrance corridor draws visitors with strong visual links to the central amenity space with a striking public art feature, seating and lighting set in a mature landscape. Around this central core, 269 car parking spaces have been provided within a landscaped framework designed to improve both drainage capacity and visual integration and continue the provision of high quality visual amenity.

Our role

Joe Harries, our Head of Landscape Architecture, was originally appointed as the principle landscape architect whilst at HLM. Working with the client and the Architects, the scheme was developed and successfully taken through planning and put out to tender as a design and build.

Following practical completion, the client has appointed Thomson Landscape to act as agents to help resolve a number of contractual issues regarding both latent defects and omissions.

One of the biggest areas for concern is the soft landscape scheme, which has experienced significant failures of plant establishment, resulting in numerous deaths of trees and shrubs. We were commissioned to undertake necessary investigations to establish the likely cause and to provide advice and support to the client to rectify the issues. The investigations involved testing topsoil and subsoil quality, depths and compaction. Trial pits were excavated to examine soil profile and soil probing was undertaken to assess compaction. The soil was found to have been inadequately prepared prior to planting.

Landscape architecture, eco-homes development

Client: Island Developments

Location: Isle of Wight

The brief

The client was developing a former orchard and heavily wooded site on the edge of the town settlement, maximising the development potential and aiming to gain planning approval for a profitable residential scheme.

The finished scheme would result in a sustainable residential eco-development generated in response to the environmental context of the site. The masterplan was to be driven by the clients three key principles

  • To create an amazing place to live
  • To respect and enhance the environment
  • To be commercially viable

Our role

Our role was as the Landscape Architects and Masterplanners of this project.

The outcome

Extensive tree and ecological surveys were carried out to understand the existing value and likely constraints on development. Areas of high value were identified for retention where possible and the lower value areas were earmarked as developable. The overall loss of amenity has been mitigated by extensive works and management regimes to the retained stock to increase ecological, arboricultural and amenity value.

The site is just under 1ha in area and has a change in level across it of over 8m. The challenges in dealing with levels were compounded by the extensive tree retention and root protection areas (RPAs), requiring much of the site to remain unchanged in terms of levels. To overcome this, roads and service runs rely on ‘no dig’ construction solutions in and around retained trees, knitted back into exiting levels using raised boardwalks as footpaths.

Existing access to the site was from an un-adopted residential lane and bridleway. Alternative access was sought by purchasing an existing adjacent which will be demolished to make way for a new site entrance and ‘gate house’.

The homes will be set in ‘glades’ within the landscape with extensive and accessible landscape amenity.

The result is an enlightened proposal for a range of dwellings that respect local character, demographic and housing needs. In line with the Island’s ‘‘Eco-Isle’’ mandate, the project seeks to create eco-living and place-making on a site which can be enjoyed by both residents and the wider community without detriment to the environment.

Logistics park development, Thames Estuary

Client: DP World
Location: South East England

The brief

DP World are developers of the London Gateway Port and Commercial Park. Now open, this is the most fully automated and efficient port in the world and will become the national hub for transport and logistics in the UK. It is a 410ha site and has a number of protected species. We were commissioned to work on many aspects of the development, one of the biggest ecology projects in Europe. The example here relates to the commercial park area.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

We have taken the ecology work on this site from initial extended Phase 1 habitat survey, through to protected species surveys for a range of flora and fauna and full habitat creation for relocated species.

  • Using the results of the survey work undertaken, we prepared ecology input for the site’s Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Statement.
  • Detailed mitigation strategies were produced for all protected species on site and we successfully gained development licences where required.
  • All work was conducted in line with best practice guidance and to the satisfaction of the Local Planning Authority and Natural England.
  • We designed and created new habitats on adjacent land for the large numbers of protected species that needed to be relocated from the development site.
  • We successfully carried out the ecological contracting works for the habitat creation, installing over 60km of temporary fencing and pitfall traps, creating 50 new ponds for great crested newts, ditches for water voles and hibernacula and log piles for reptiles.

Recommendations and outcomes

Strong project management skills and good liaison with DP World, Natural England and other involved parties ensured that the development on this huge site progress whilst preserving, and hopefully, in time, enhancing habitats for wildlife.

“London Gateway is a five star £1.5bn investment creating a new port and logistics park. Thomson Ecology’s first class project management skills and knowledge of all the legislation have assisted us with keeping the programme on target.”
Simon Moore CEO London Gateway, DP World

Waterfront development

Client: Cumbria County Council
Location: North West

The brief

Cumbria County Council commissioned restoration works on the middle slag bank adjacent to the Walney Channel. Thomson Ecology was to provide information to enable an Appropriate Assessment under the terms of the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (the ‘Habitats Directive’), to be carried out, on Duddon Estuary (SPA), to determine whether this development would have a significant impact on the interests for which the area is designated under the Habitats Regulations.

The proposed development was immediately adjacent to the northern part of the Walney Channel, which forms part of the Duddon Estuary, a large coastal area covered by several international and national nature conservation designations. The public right of way, of which the access track proposed for development is a part, leads directly into areas covered by these designations.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Thomson Ecology undertook an Appropriate Assessment in which a consultation and review of relevant data available was conducted involving Natural England, The National Trust, Local Groups, The Harbour Master, Farmers, Fisheries Group, Wildfowling Group and many other organisations.
  • The Appropriate Assessment assessed the impact during construction and the operational phase of the development and the "Effects on Site Integrity of Development In Combination with Other Developments Affecting the Natura 2000/Ramsar Sites".

Recommendations and outcomes

Thomson Ecology concluded that, when assessed on its own, the construction of the improved access would have no adverse effects on the integrity of the Duddon Estuary Natura 2000/Ramsar site.

Flood

Aquatic macroinvertebrate survey and identification, Congresbury Yeo

Client: Team Van Oord
Location: Congresbury Yeo, Somerset

The brief

Our aquatic team were required to survey several ditch sites to assess the range of aquatic invertebrates in them. This was part of our client’s on-going flood defence works.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Ditches which had been proposed to be infilled were investigated by our aquatic specialists to identify if any rare or scarce species were inhabiting them. Our team surveyed the ditches using a standardised 1mm mesh pond net, and following best practice protocol
  • Several water quality parameters were analysed in the field
  • Aquatic macroinvertebrate identifications were completed either in the field or back in the laboratory
  • Aquatic invertebrates were identified to family level
  • Biotic indices scores were assessed and the Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP) biotic index was used to calculate scores for key family groups of aquatic invertebrates present based on their sensitivity to pollution

The outcome

  • Water quality scores for the sites were classed as ‘Moderate’ or ‘Poor’
  • No aquatic invertebrates were recorded as being rare or scarce
  • Works at Congresbury Yeo were able to continue as no mitigation measures were required

Fisheries management, Hampstead Heath

Client: BAM Nuttall Ltd
Location: Hampstead Heath, London

The brief

The Hampstead Heath Ponds project was implemented by the City of London to protect Hampstead Heath and the surrounding North London area from dam collapse in the event of extreme rainfall. BAM Nuttall, the appointed engineer for the safety works on two chains of ponds on the Model Boating Pond, commissioned Thomson Ecology to undertake a fish translocation exercise. This was part of major works to replace water control structures.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

We completed a watching brief of the pond drain-down. We obtained an FR2 consent from the Environment Agency, and managed a staged fish rescue operation using seine nets and electric fishing.

Over 1,400 fish were caught and relocated safely to the main body of the lake.

We carried out the humane removal of the population of non-native invasive red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkia), and translocated hundreds of native swan mussels (Anodonta cygnea).

The outcome

Our client was able to continue with the silt removal works with no delays.

White-clawed crayfish survey, Leeds

Location: River Aire, Leeds

The brief

The brief As part of on-going monitoring for the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS), surveys were required to ensure construction works were compliant with environmental planning conditions. We were asked to provide technical expertise by surveying a section of the River Aire for white-clawed crayfish.

White-clawed crayfish are protected in the UK. This species is listed under the European Union’s (EU) Habitat and Species Directive and is listed under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It is also classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We surveyed sections of the River Aire and the adjacent canal by deploying and baiting crayfish traps throughout the watercourses. Fish that were caught in the traps were identified and returned to the water.
  • Our results showed that no white-clawed crayfish were present throughout the site. This confirmed previous data records for the site.

The outcome

We were satisfied that our client’s works could continue on site without delay.

Highways

A31 Magherafelt Bypass, Northern Ireland

Client:Mouchel Ltd

Location:Northern Ireland

Keywords:Bat inspections, bat emergence surveys, bat activity surveys, conservation strategy

The Brief

Proposals were put forward for a bypass scheme to relieve congestion in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland. Ecology surveys were required in order to determine baseline conditions for the site and inform route options.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We undertook a suite of bat surveys along the proposed route options.
  • Buildings and trees were inspected for their potential to support roosting bats.
  • All features with the potential to support roosting bats were then subject to dusk emergence and dawn return to roost surveys to determine the presence or likely absence of roosts.
  • An assessment was also made of potential foraging and commuting habitats for bats which was followed by a suite of bat activity surveys to determine how bats were using the various route options.

The outcome

Several bat roosts were recorded, including a roost of the rare Nathusius’ pipistrelle. In addition, numerous commuting corridors and foraging areas were identified.

The results of the surveys were used to inform the route options and minimise potential impacts on bats through detailed conservation strategy planning. As a result the main works were given the go-ahead.

Ecological mitigation and expert services, London Gateway Access Road

Client: DP World

Location: South East

The Brief

DP World’s London Gateway Port and Commercial Park development at Shell Haven on the Thames Estuary is set to be the most fully automated and efficient port in the world. It will become the national hub for transport and logistics in the UK.

The creation of a dual carriageway access road was required to service the London Gateway port and logistics park developments.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We provided all information and analysis for the Competent Authority to complete the Appropriate Assessment (part of a Habitat Regulations Assessment) of the impacts of the development on European designated sites adjacent to the development. A Special Protection Area and Ramsar site were located within 20 metres of the access road.
  • We produced the ecology chapter of the Environmental Statement, which was informed by a full suite of protected species surveys, in order to gain consent for the realigned access road.
  • We created bespoke mitigation packages, combining different species mitigation to maximise efficiency and manage costs, which were approved by the Statutory Authority.
  • We applied for numerous Protected Species Development Licences, for great crested newts (5 licences), badgers (2), water voles (3) and bats (1). Those for the water vole mitigation were the first licences of their kind granted in the UK.
  • We produced mitigation method statements for reptiles.
  • Once the development licences were in place, we carried out the mitigation for reptiles, badgers, water voles and great crested newts, ultimately implementing the largest multi-species translocations ever undertaken in the UK.
  • Working with our sister company, Thomson Habitats, we implemented large-scale contracting work, which included creating over 34 ponds, installing 60km of temporary and permanent ecological fencing, creating 30ha of wildlife habitat, and planting 12,000 native trees.

The outcome

The project proceeded to schedule with all licensing and mitigation work completed.

The £1.5 billion London Gateway Development opened in November 2013.

“London Gateway is a five star £1.5bn investment creating a new port and logistics park. Thomson Ecology’s first class project management skills and knowledge of all the legislation have assisted us with keeping the programme on target.”

Simon Moore CEO London Gateway, DP World

M4 relief road, ecology surveys

Client: Ove Arup and Partners Ltd

Location: South Wales

The brief

A relief road was proposed from Magor to Castleton in South Wales in order to ease rush hour congestion on the M4.

Ecology baseline surveys and protected species surveys were required in order to assess the impacts of the scheme on habitats and protected species which could be affected by the proposals.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Thomson Ecology undertook an extended Phase 1 Habitat survey of the 24km route in order to map the habitats present and to provide an assessment of the site to support protected species, species of conservation concern and protected habitats.
  • A total of 400 water bodies were identified within 500m of the proposed route. These were subjected to Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) assessments to determine their suitability to support great crested newts (GCN).
  • 350 water bodies were considered to have the potential to support great crested newts, so were subject to further, more detailed surveys to determine the presence or likely absence of GCN.
  • The massive scale and complexity of carrying out this work - liaising directly with Natural Resources Wales and numerous landowners, and directing a large team of surveyors - led the Thomson Ecology Project Manager and our in-house GIS team to create a bespoke database especially for this project. This database enabled the survey data, project progress and landowner contact details to be kept updated daily and extracted in report format to inform the client of progress.
  • Surveys were undertaken under licence from Natural Resources Wales.

The outcome

The surveys and reports were completed on time and on budget, and allowed our client to plan their next steps with reliable and up-to-date ecological survey data.



Image: Ruth Sharville

International

Wetland restoration and biodiversity enhancement, Al Ha’ir Lakes, Saudi Arabia

Client: Arriyadh Development Authority
Location: Saudi Arabia

The brief

The Wadi Hanifah is a natural watercourse and wetland with flows supplemented by groundwater and discharge from Riyadh. The area, having been undervalued in the past, was subject to a restoration and enhancement programme. The Al Ha’ir Lakes, located to the south of Riyadh, were a significant part of the restoration and enhancement programme. The Lakes cover a combined area of approximately 35ha and are ‘in-line’ with flows from the Wadi Hanifah entering the Lakes at the upstream end, then passing through the lakes and leaving at the downstream end via a second weir.

We were commissioned to advise on ecological issues for the project, including potential ecological enhancement options and likely ecological effects.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We conducted a thorough review of documentation for the project, including plans of the Al Ha’ir lakes and previous reports
  • Our experienced team undertook a site visit to gain an in-depth understanding of the Wadi Hanifah system. Observations of the flora and fauna were made, as well as water quality
  • Following the documentation review and site visit, an assessment of the biodiversity potential under various scenarios was made
  • Water quality and depth scenarios were evaluated and we advised on the likely effect of these on lake ecology
  • Current designs and water regimes were assessed in order to ascertain whether biodiversity potential could be achieved or not

The outcome

We suggested various methods for enhancing the biodiversity value of the lakes. Shallower water, vegetated banks and the formation of reedbeds and scrub was found to produce higher biodiversity potential, seasonal pools and wadis were also found to provide enhanced biodiversity potential, as this is the natural habitat of the area. The utilisation of sediment traps, an effective monitoring system and water diversion capabilities were also suggested to maintain higher water qualities.

Minerals and aggregate

Dredging consents

Client: Llanelli Sand Dredging Ltd
Location: Wales and South West

The brief

Llanelli Sand Dredging Limited needed to renew their licence for dredging at Nobel Banks on the Bristol Channel, South Wales.

As part of the renewal of consents process, ecological surveys were required at regular intervals to monitor the impact of dredging on marine life.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We conducted biodiversity monitoring surveys over the course of several years;
  • Fish and benthos surveys were carried out through deployment of grabs and trawls from a survey vessel;
  • Reports were produced that compared biological and habitat data and presented statistical analyses;

Recommendations and outcomes

The surveys and report were completed within a strict timescale and on budget.

No significant changes to the biological communities present at the site were detected.

As a result, Llanelli Sand Dredging Limited has successfully achieved the appropriate licences and consents to continue their dredging operation.

Water Framework Directive (WFD) assessments

Location: London

The brief

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force in 2000 and requires all navigational dredging and/or disposal activities located within water bodies to undergo a WFD assessment. Thomson Unicomarine were commissioned to undertake a WFD assessment for a proposed maintenance water injection dredging campaign in the Thames Estuary.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We completed a WFD assessment in line with the Environment Agency’s (EA) ‘Clearing the Waters’ guidelines.
  • We used publicly available data and chemical analysis from recent sediment sampling to assess the impacts of using water injection dredging to maintain the berth depth on the water body.
  • The report was submitted to the Marine Management Organisation to support the marine licence application.

Recommendations and outcomes

Thomson Unicomarine concluded that using water injection dredging for this maintenance dredge campaign was unlikely to have a significant adverse impact on the water body or the WFD objectives. The report was well received by the EA which has used it to illustrate what it would like to see included in all WFD assessments from now on.

Oil and gas

Habitat mapping of the Knepp Wildland Project

Client: Knepp Wildland Project

Location: Knepp, West Sussex

The Knepp Wildland Project is an innovative rewilding scheme which has seen the transformation of approximately 1000ha of formerly intensive agricultural land into a revitalised lowland mosaic of habitats.

Introduced free-ranging herbivores - red and fallow deer, Tamworth pigs, English longhorn cattle and Exmoor ponies - drive the vegetation dynamics. Monitoring how the vegetation develops over time is a key part of the Knepp scheme.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

We provided Knepp Wildland Project with habitat mapping using information obtained through UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) surveys. This enabled the client to monitor shifting habitat mosaics within the scheme.

This involved:

  • Undertaking UAV flights to capture high resolution aerial imagery and video. Over 3000 individual images were captured over almost 2km2. The pixel resolution of the imagery was 4cm
  • Processing the imagery to produce a seamless orthorectified image mosaic
  • Creating habitat maps from the image mosaic which denotes areas of scrub/woodland and areas of grassland
  • Producing a 3D point cloud model, allowing the study area to be navigated in a 3D environment from the viewer’s desk
  • Creating Digital Surface Models (DSMs) showing relative surface elevations across the study area
  • Showing geospatial comparisons between the proportions of scrub/woodland and grassland in our 2016 UAV imagery and previously captured aerial imagery.

The benefits of this information

Having current, high-resolution imagery of the Knepp Wildland Project allows the site managers to effectively monitor how the vegetation within the scheme develops.

The habitat maps created using our UAV-derived imagery were compared to habitat maps that we had created for past aerial imagery. This allowed a quantification of the change in proportions of scrub/woodland to grassland, showing that since the start of the Wildland Project the percentage of scrub/woodland had increased.

Continued periodic repeats of this process would provide an effective mechanism for monitoring the ever-changing dynamics of the mosaic habitat within the Wildland Project.

Other

Habitat mapping of the Knepp Wildland Project

Client: Knepp Wildland Project

Location: Knepp, West Sussex

The Knepp Wildland Project is an innovative rewilding scheme which has seen the transformation of approximately 1000ha of formerly intensive agricultural land into a revitalised lowland mosaic of habitats.

Introduced free-ranging herbivores - red and fallow deer, Tamworth pigs, English longhorn cattle and Exmoor ponies - drive the vegetation dynamics. Monitoring how the vegetation develops over time is a key part of the Knepp scheme.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

We provided Knepp Wildland Project with habitat mapping using information obtained through UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) surveys. This enabled the client to monitor shifting habitat mosaics within the scheme.

This involved:

  • Undertaking UAV flights to capture high resolution aerial imagery and video. Over 3000 individual images were captured over almost 2km2. The pixel resolution of the imagery was 4cm
  • Processing the imagery to produce a seamless orthorectified image mosaic
  • Creating habitat maps from the image mosaic which denotes areas of scrub/woodland and areas of grassland
  • Producing a 3D point cloud model, allowing the study area to be navigated in a 3D environment from the viewer’s desk
  • Creating Digital Surface Models (DSMs) showing relative surface elevations across the study area
  • Showing geospatial comparisons between the proportions of scrub/woodland and grassland in our 2016 UAV imagery and previously captured aerial imagery.

The benefits of this information

Having current, high-resolution imagery of the Knepp Wildland Project allows the site managers to effectively monitor how the vegetation within the scheme develops.

The habitat maps created using our UAV-derived imagery were compared to habitat maps that we had created for past aerial imagery. This allowed a quantification of the change in proportions of scrub/woodland to grassland, showing that since the start of the Wildland Project the percentage of scrub/woodland had increased.

Continued periodic repeats of this process would provide an effective mechanism for monitoring the ever-changing dynamics of the mosaic habitat within the Wildland Project.

Ports

Able Marine Energy Park

Client: Able UK

Location: Humber Estuary

The brief

Our brief was to design a wet grassland as part of the compensation for the impacts of the Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP) development on the Humber Flats, Marshes and Coast Special Protection Area (SPA) and Humber Estuary Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

AMEP is a bespoke port facility for the renewable energy sector, particularly offshore wind. It covers an area of 364 hectares and includes 1.3km of deep-water quays. AMEP will result in the loss of approximately 40ha of intertidal habitat within the Humber Flats, Marshes and Coast SPA and Humber Estuary SAC. It was decided that the development is of sufficient importance to override the effects of the development on the SPA/SAC but that compensatory habitat would need to be created in order to maintain the overall coherence of the designated site network.

Our client had secured a site close to the Humber Estuary, comprising arable farmland for compensatory habitat provision. Part of that compensation was to provide an area of wet grassland suitable for foraging black-tailed godwits and a waterbody with an island suitable for roosting black-tailed godwits. The new habitat required planning consent before it could be constructed. The total site area for the wet grassland site is 38.5 ha.

Our role was to:

  • Produce an outline design for the wet grassland and waterbody, for discussion with the regulators
  • Produce a full and detailed design for the wet grassland site which included 5 ha of open water, an irrigation system for the grassland, the achievement of a cut-fill balance and details of the final topography
  • Produce the supporting construction management documents, including a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)
  • Assist with the preparation of management plans for the wet grassland site (and other areas of compensatory habitat)
  • Provide support to Able UK at the Compensation Hearing, part of the examination of the AMEP project by National Infrastructure Planning
  • Provide support to Able UK in securing planning permission for the wet grassland and waterbody, including dealing with comments from Natural England and the RSPB, both of whom objected to the AMEP development

Baseline Marine Ecological Assessment

Client: Milford Haven Port Authority
Location: Wales

The brief

Milford Haven Port Authority are proposing to develop port facilities at Milford Haven. Thomson Unicomarine were awarded a contract to undertake baseline ecological assessments of this area. These will be used as a baseline for future monitoring to assess potential impacts on the marine environment.

“We are impressed by Thomson Unicomarine’s in-depth technical knowledge in this area and their enthusiasm to do a good job for us”.
Dave Levell, Environment Manager at Milford Haven Port Authority

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We undertook intertidal and subtidal surveys to assess the conservation value and sensitivity of the area.
  • This new data will place the information within the context of existing marine and maritime data.
  • Our team of highly experienced marine biologists conducted benthos, invertebrate, fish and habitat surveys.
  • This included boat and shore based grab sampling and underwater video surveys.
  • The samples were analysed in our laboratories for biological and particle size analysis.
  • Thomson Unicomarine completed two interpretative reports for intertidal and subtidal biology, respectively.

The outcome

The surveys and reports were completed on time and on budget and were well received. The development proposal is in progress and Thomson Unicomarine continues to take an active involvement.

Environmental Impact Assessment, Port of Harwich

Client: Harwich Haven Authority
Location: Essex

The brief

Harwich Haven Authority is responsible for the maintenance of the Port of Harwich. This includes routine operations such as dredging the navigation channel, disposal of residue and foreshore recharge to mitigate against erosion, as well as potential new developments, most notably at Bathside Bay.

Ecological surveys are required for all these processes, as they have the potential to impact on the marine environment. To date, Thomson Unicomarine, Thomson Ecology’s marine division, has written more than 70 reports for HHA, detailing different aspects of the marine biology of the area and likely impacts of different operations. We also gave expert witness evidence at the public enquiry for Bathside Bay.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We have monitored changes in the marine ecology of the area through regular fish and benthos surveys, including detailed biotope mapping, boat and shore based sampling of fish and benthos and in situ records.
  • Reports have detailed likely reasons for any changes to benthos, through comparison of maps and statistical analyses.
  • We have recorded and published on the arrival of newly recorded non-native species such as the Oriental shrimp (Palaemon macrodactylus) and Japanese skeleton shrimp (Caprella mutica).
  • We have also recorded changes in the abundance of different fish species over time.

The outcome

All surveys and reports were completed on time and budget and, in later years, results have been presented at annual Regulators Group meetings by our staff. Recorded changes to the biological communities were considered to be due to factors outside the control of HHA and essential port maintenance has continued.

The proposed expansion at Bathside Bay was approved after the public enquiry and agreement to ecological monitoring and mitigation measures. Since then development has been postponed for reasons outside ecology.

Our work within the Stour and Orwell estuaries on behalf of the Authority is still ongoing.

Invasive species, Harwich Haven

Client: Harwich Haven Authority
Location: Stour Estuary, Essex and Orwell Estuary, Suffolk

The brief

In anticipation of the Ballast Water Management Convention becoming ratified in 2017, Harwich Haven Authority commissioned Thomson Unicomarine’s marine consultancy team to investigate and describe the invasive species present within their harbour boundary.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We analysed data collected by Thomson Unicomarine from the Stour and Orwell estuaries over the past 5 years.
  • We recorded the invasive species identified, where they were found, and looked at any trends in species composition and abundance over the years.
  • We researched the invasive species identified in order to describe their impact on the marine environment, particularly the impact on native species and port and harbour activities.
  • We reported our findings to Harwich Haven Authority with recommendations on the management of these species with regard to the Ballast Water Management Convention.

The outcome

The report was completed on time and to budget and was well received. We were able to advise Harwich on what steps they would need to take next to prepare for any requirements imposed by the Ballast Water Management Convention. This would include the management of ballast waters to reduce the probability of the introduction of marine invasive species. This work has been reported on in industry magazines.

Logistics park development, Thames Estuary

Client: DP World
Location: South East England

The brief

DP World are developers of the London Gateway Port and Commercial Park. Now open, this is the most fully automated and efficient port in the world and will become the national hub for transport and logistics in the UK. It is a 410ha site and has a number of protected species. We were commissioned to work on many aspects of the development, one of the biggest ecology projects in Europe. The example here relates to the commercial park area.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

We have taken the ecology work on this site from initial extended Phase 1 habitat survey, through to protected species surveys for a range of flora and fauna and full habitat creation for relocated species.

  • Using the results of the survey work undertaken, we prepared ecology input for the site’s Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Statement.
  • Detailed mitigation strategies were produced for all protected species on site and we successfully gained development licences where required.
  • All work was conducted in line with best practice guidance and to the satisfaction of the Local Planning Authority and Natural England.
  • We designed and created new habitats on adjacent land for the large numbers of protected species that needed to be relocated from the development site.
  • We successfully carried out the ecological contracting works for the habitat creation, installing over 60km of temporary fencing and pitfall traps, creating 50 new ponds for great crested newts, ditches for water voles and hibernacula and log piles for reptiles.

Recommendations and outcomes

Strong project management skills and good liaison with DP World, Natural England and other involved parties ensured that the development on this huge site progress whilst preserving, and hopefully, in time, enhancing habitats for wildlife.

“London Gateway is a five star £1.5bn investment creating a new port and logistics park. Thomson Ecology’s first class project management skills and knowledge of all the legislation have assisted us with keeping the programme on target.”
Simon Moore CEO London Gateway, DP World

Public sector

Biodiversity geospatial mapping

Client: The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Location: Wales

The brief

The Vale of Glamorgan Council needed a solution that would provide a connectivity and opportunity map that is robust, defensible and reasonable and can be used to inform future development proposals, strategic planning and local BAP processes. Thomson Ecology was commissioned to map 34,000ha of existing biodiversity resources within the region and to identify future habitat connectivity.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Working with the Vale of Glamorgan Council's ecologist we developed a range of ideas and methods to ensure successful completion of the project.
  • Using WAG 2009 Aerial Photography and OS Mastermap, we refined the boundaries of the existing Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) dataset to ensure they accurately represent the extent of the habitat and the boundary. We then snapped the boundary to OS Mastermap where appropriate.
  • We have added value to this dataset by extracting and categorising information from the survey proformas into fields in the attribute table.
  • We collated all available existing biodiversity information for the Vale e.g. SSSI boundaries, Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) Phase I and II, Ancient Woodland Inventory, Protected Species and Highway Verge records to identify and gain a good understanding of the existing ecological network.
  • Advanced GIS analysis techniques have been employed to robustly assess the distribution, connectivity and quality of the existing sites.
  • Using our advanced aerial photography interpretation skills, we identified a wide variety of areas and habitats as potential ecological opportunities and connections. These included areas such as possible existing SINC extensions, SSSI buffer zones or areas at risk and more linear connecting features such as hedgerows, rivers, roadside verges and field margins.
  • We undertook ground-truthing field surveys, using standard methodology to confirm that the connectivity mapping was representative and opportunities for enhancement were realistic.

Recommendations and outcomes

The project was completed at the end of March 2012 and the primary output was a GIS dataset of polygons of potential habitat connections and opportunities. This allows easy interrogation of the data to highlight areas of differing habitat types, functions and priorities.

It will inform key objectives, enabling the strategic targeting of resources to achieve maximum conservation benefit - both in terms of individual site conservation and local and regional connectivity.

Coastal habitat mapping, South West

Client: Plymouth Coastal Observatory / Teignbridge District Council
Location: South West England

The brief

The Southwest Strategic Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme is a collaboration between local authorities, the Environment Agency and other government bodies and coastal groups. It aims to provide a method of monitoring the coastal environment in the South West.

The programme covers over 1000 km of open coastline from Portland Bill in Dorset and Beachley Point in Gloucestershire, terminating at the Welsh border to join seamlessly with the Wales Coastal Monitoring Programme. Thomson Ecology was commissioned in 2015 to undertake the ecological mapping requirement of the programme for four out of the five work packages, to provide freely available Priority Habitat data for use by all of the programme partners to contribute to their high level biodiversity reporting and monitoring requirements. This updated the dataset created in 2008.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Refined, developed and updated the broad methodology in consultation with Teignbridge Borough Council on behalf of Southwest Strategic Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme
  • Reclassified the Integrated Habitat System codes applied in 2008 to priority habitat codes
  • Mapped the extent of all coastal and terrestrial habitats for a study area of 80,000 hectares by interpreting aerial imagery acquired between 2012 and 2014 and comparing this with habitat data mapped in 2007 and Ordnance Survey Mastermap
  • Undertook field surveys of sites where there was evidence of change, where priority habitat communities were uncertain, and where there was proximity to nationally or internationally designated sites. The field surveys checked the type and extent of habitats present, collected photographic evidence and listed notable species and assessed habitat condition
  • Identified areas of invasive species, such as Hottentot fig, which could be targeted for future management and control
  • Presented the results at the annual Plymouth Coastal Observatory Partners Meeting

The outcome

We delivered GIS data (ESRI geodatabases and MapInfo tables), technical report and field survey sheets to meet the Partnership’s biodiversity requirements.

European Protected Species Licence for bats

Client: Hampshire County Council
Location: Hampshire

The brief

The Great Barn complex at Basing House, Hampshire, was a stately home in Tudor times but deteriorated during Oliver Cromwell’s civil war. Hampshire County Council wished to convert this historic landmark into a visitors’ centre and museum. Thomson Ecology‘s brief was to conduct a baseline ecological assessment to assess the potential of the buildings to support roosting bats and advise on further steps necessary.

What Thomson did for the client

  • On completion of the initial assessment, we reported on the results and potential constraints on the project, and recommended how these could be overcome. This included detailed species surveys
  • Following an award for the redevelopment to Hampshire County Council from the National Lottery Fund, we undertook detailed bat emergence surveys at the barns
  • We identified 33 bat roosts, with seven bat species

As a result, we prepared and obtained a European Protected Species Development Licence for bats, liaising closely with the project architects to design appropriate mitigation measures to manage risk to the bats during construction and compensation for the loss of roosting opportunities. We supported Hampshire County Council with the renovations, providing toolbox talks to contractors and overseeing construction of mitigation measures including

  • new roosting opportunities
  • improvement of site conditions to increase roosting opportunities
  • installation of bat boxes
  • protecting existing roosts

The outcome

The renovation works are now complete. Initial monitoring shows that bats are continuing to use the Great Barn and have started to use one of the new roosts. Monitoring is ongoing.

Fish identifications and dissections

Client: Environment Agency
Location: South West England

The brief

Thomson Unicomarine’s fisheries experts were required to identify grey mullet fish species in order to verify data for a national fish-monitoring programme.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Dissections of each individual grey mullet specimen were completed under the microscope
  • Pyloric caeca, once located inside each fish specimen, were analysed
  • Photographs of internal organ positions were also taken
  • Recommendations and outcomes

    Each grey mullet specimen was identified to species level. Specimens were carefully maintained and returned to the client along with a report on species identification and pyloric caeca details. We provided value for money by producing teaching aids to the client so that their staff would be able to do the work themselves going forward.

    ‘Correct identification is of paramount importance to our work at the Environment Agency; we need to be absolutely certain of the species’ ID as it influences WFD estuary fish classification scores. Thomson Unicomarine gave a quick turnaround on the project and provided us with the identifications, dissected specimens and material that we can use as teaching aids….’

    Rob Hillman, Senior Environmental Monitoring Officer, Environment Agency.

Habitat Assessment for ancient woodland

Client: Forestry Commission Wales
Location: Wales

The brief

Forestry Commission Wales is responsible for implementing the Welsh Assembly Government Woodland Strategy for Wales. This includes the management of approximately 130,000ha of Welsh Government owned forest estate, of which currently 14,000ha is designated as ancient woodland.

Thomson Ecology was awarded a two year contract to complete a Baseline Habitat Assessment of this ancient woodland.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client:

  • Thomson Ecology implemented a survey programme to evaluate the current habitat baseline condition of approximately 14,000ha of ancient woodland
  • We monitored the relevant attributes and factors that are associated with a functioning woodland ecosystem
  • Our experienced team of botanists and arboriculturists used a detailed methodology to record data on woodland features
  • We recorded all data using mobile mapper handheld devices, which are GPS enabled and provide sub-metre accuracy. All photographs captured are also geo-tagged
  • Our approach to data collection helps to minimise error and ensure data quality

The outcome

Our results are used to inform ongoing improvements in woodland management of the Forestry Commission’s estate. The Forestry Commission Wales is committed to protecting and expanding Britain’s forests and woodlands. By understanding the condition of the forest throughout Wales, they can take measures to preserve and improve these precious habitats.

Habitat connectivity mapping

Client: South Downs National Park Authority
Location: South Downs National Park

The brief

The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) is responsible for leading the development and implementation of the South Downs Partnership Management Plan and the Local Plan.

A key priority for the SDNPA is to restore an ecologically functional network of semi-natural habitats across the South Downs National Park (SDNP). Under the National Planning Policy Framework, the SDNPA is required to identify and map all components of the local ecological networks.

The project has two key objectives

  • The development and application of a methodology to assess semi-natural habitat connectivity across the SDNP
  • To create a queriable map-based habitat- potential model of the SDNP. This will highlight the locations which would be suitable for the creation, connection and restoration of agreed priority habitats.

Thomson Ecology was commissioned to

  • Develop a model to measure semi-natural habitat connectivity across the National Park
  • Create maps that identify opportunities for agreed priority habitats across the National Park
  • Supply the models in both ArcGIS and QGIS formats with supporting documentation and user training.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We undertook a literature and best practice review, and from this identified the most appropriate models to employ.
  • Using ArcGIS, we modelled all existing semi-natural habitat.
  • Further modelling was undertaken to identify habitat opportunities.
  • The habitat modelling was further developed to run as a tool in both ArcGIS and QGIS, enabling the analysis to be rerun.

The outcome

Thomson Ecology delivered GIS data along with technical reports that highlighted the locations which would be suitable for the creation, connection and restoration of agreed priority habitats. The models used were also provided as tools that could be run in both ArcGIS and QGIS allowing the SDNPA to update both the data and the parameters used in the model.

Habitats Regulations Assessment for development framework

Client: North Yorkshire County Council
Location: North West

The brief

North Yorkshire County Council commissioned Thomson Ecology to assist in development of a Minerals and Waste Development Framework.

This contained policies relating to the provision of silica sand, as silica sand reserves were partially located on the edge of the North Pennine Moors SAC/SPA.

An Appropriate Assessment was required to investigate any potential adverse effects on the designated site as a result of the policy implementation.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • This project required careful investigation of the possible implications of the policy both in isolation and in combination with other policies.
  • A full report was produced suitable for publication in the public domain.
  • The report also recommended appropriate mitigation to be included within the policy to ensure adverse effects would be avoided.
  • As part of the process we attended meetings with the statutory regulators Natural England and the Environment Agency, attended open days to discuss ecological impacts and conservation strategies with local residents and liaised with local wildlife groups including the Wildlife Trust.

Recommendations and outcomes

Our input was key in highlighting the measures taken to avoid, minimise and mitigate ecological impacts and provided a satisfactory outcome for all parties concerned.

Invasive species monitoring, South West England

Client: Teignbridge Borough Council
Location: South West England

The brief

Thomson Ecology was commissioned by Teignbridge Borough Council, as part of the Southwest Strategic Coastal Monitoring Programme, to map four invasive non-native plant species and two further non-native plant species identified at 23 sites. This covered over 24 km2 of coastal habitats found within Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The target invasive species were Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), Hottentot fig (Carpobrotus edulis), Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa) and montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora), and two non-native species - Karo (Pittosporum crassifolium) and Tresco Rhodostachys (Ochagavia carnea).

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

The principal approach was to use recent aerial imagery to identify and map the target species present in the area of interest.

An experienced ecologist within the geospatial team took the lead on processing the aerial imagery data, mapping the extent of the target species into an ArcGIS geodatabase and writing up the final report detailing our methodology, results and the legal status of the invasive non-native species identified in this study.

From inspection of the aerial imagery and photographs collected as part of an earlier study, non-native plant species were identified as being present at 11 of the 23 sites studied.

The outcome

The written report along with GIS data was supplied to the client. Subsequently the report has been circulated amongst the Southwest Strategic Coastal Monitoring Programme partners and other interested parties.

NMBAQC scheme management

Client: Environment Agency/NMBAQC committee

Location: UK and Europe

The brief

We are members of the Biological Effects Quality Assurance in Monitoring Programmes (BEQUALM) / North East Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control (NMBAQC) Scheme and have implemented the Scheme’s Benthic Invertebrate, Particle Size Analysis and Fish Components since its inception in 1994. As part of this we audit 57 laboratories and fish monitoring teams from the UK and Europe that take part in the Scheme, including all major national laboratories and consultancies that value quality control.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

For the past 19 years, Thomson Ecology have been appointed auditors for the North East Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control (NMBAQC) scheme for the following three core components:

  • benthic invertebrate
  • fish
  • particle size

Summary

The NMBAQC scheme, the only one of its kind, sets the standard for assessment of marine biological data contributing to UK national and European monitoring programmes and is intended to develop and promote best practice in relation to sampling and analysis procedures.

As part of the BEQUALM (Biological Effects Quality Assurance Monitoring programme), the NMBAQC scheme is open to participants across the European Union and has recently been expanded to include laboratories operating in all OSPAR regions.

As we are responsible for the implementation of three of the Scheme’s core components, all of our auditing work is under scrutiny by the participating laboratories and the steering committee. There are also additional procedures in place for the auditing of samples analysed by Thomson Ecology and we follow additional quality control by means of external audits.


Rail

Badger sett exclusions, multiple locations

As part of Thomson Ecology’s framework agreement with Network Rail, and working in partnership with Thomson Habitats, we carried out badger sett closures and exclusions on multiple sites across Network Rail infrastructure.

One of the sites in East Yorkshire, required an emergency badger sett closure, as the sett was undermining a main rail line. There was a significant risk of the line becoming damaged, due to subsidence or the collapse of the sett structure. Following extensive consultation with Natural England, we were granted an emergency licence for the closure of the sett, and were permitted to close the sett outside of the normal season.

As part of our works we

  • Surveyed and mapped out four separate badger setts
  • Cleared over 1400m2 of dense vegetation and trees to facilitate mitigation works
  • Supplied and installed over 70 metal one-way badger gates
  • Supplied and installed over 1400m2 of heavy-duty PVC chain-link mesh
  • Provided Safe Systems of Work packs for all work sites
  • Provided safety critical staff for all work sites including COSS and Lookouts where required

“As part of our national ecology framework, we approached Thomson Ecology to carry out various badger sett surveys and associated sett closures across our rail infrastructure. Time was of the essence for these works, as several of the setts were undermining active rail links, and without immediate action could have caused serious damage. Thomson Ecology and Thomson Habitats worked closely together to provide a turnkey approach, ensuring that all of the required sett closures were undertaken in line with our programme and to a high standard of quality and safety. I would not hesitate to use them on other projects."

Craig Marshall, Network Rail.

Ecology services, South Wales Valley Lines Electrification Scheme

Client: ABC Electrification

Location: Ebbw Vale to Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil

The brief

In 2012, ABC Electrification started work on behalf on Network Rail to deliver the electrification of the South Wales Valley lines between Ebbw Vale Parkway and Cardiff, and between Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil covering a total distance of 205km. As part of the electrification works, ABC Electrification will be installing 344km of Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) and constructing 8000 overhead line structures. This will involve alterations to bridges, platforms and station buildings along with associated sub-stations and construction compounds. Thomson Ecology has been commissioned to offer advice on any ecology constraints on the works.

What Thomson Ecology is doing for the client

Thomson Ecology has provided a range of ecological support including:

  • A desk study collating data from South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC) and ten local councils. The desk study included over 18,000 protected species records, and reports on nine internationally protected sites within 5km, 54 nationally designated sites and 657 locally designated sites within 2km.
  • A desk based Phase 1 habitat survey using analysis of aerial imagery and train cab video footage. Aerial imagery was used to map and classify the habitat types present. The video analysis used footage taken from the train cab to identify stands of invasive plant species and structures that could have the potential to support roosting bats. Using these methods, 37 habitat types were identified and 132 structures were assessed for their potential to support roosting bats.
  • Field based Phase 1 habitat surveys for a 45km length of railway where no video footage was available for analysis. Aerial imagery was used alongside the field survey to analyse areas which were not accessible on foot. These methods identified a further 22 habitat types.
  • The Phase 1 surveys identified habitats along the route with the potential to support bats, badgers, dormice, great crested newts, reptiles, breeding birds, water voles, otters, white-clawed crayfish, protected plant and invertebrate species, and also stands of invasive plants. Further surveys for these species and groups of species have been recommended.

Recommendations and outcomes

Thomson Ecology’s innovative approach to the Phase 1 habitat survey maximised time efficiency and cost effectiveness. We continue to work with ABC Electrification as the scheme develops and provide ecological advice and consultation in a timely manner.

Jane Jukes, Environmental Manager for ABC Electrification said:

“This was ABC Electrification’s first experience of working with Thomson Ecology and I have found them extremely professional and collaborative in their support in delivering this complex and challenging programme of works.”

Ecology surveys, Great Western Route Modernisation

Client: ABC Electrification

Location: Cardiff to Bristol

The brief

As part of Network Rail's Great Western Route Modernisation project ABC Electrification is delivering the electrification of the railway between Bristol and Cardiff, which includes gauge clearance works to tunnels and bridges, and creating access points. Thomson Ecology was commissioned to provide all the ecological support including survey work, consultancy and any mitigation required. The 80km stretch of railway to be developed crosses, or is adjacent to, seven UK protected sites and eleven locally protected sites. Features along the route have potential to support bats, badgers, reptiles, breeding birds, water vole, otter, white-clawed crayfish, protected plant and invertebrate species and there are stands of invasive plants.

What Thomson Ecology is doing for the client

Thomson Ecology is currently providing a suite of ecological services including:

  • A review of existing ecology reports commissioned by Network Rail to identify where further surveys are required and how this ties into ABC Electrification's work programme.
  • Extended Phase 1 habitat surveys of more than 30 proposed compounds, storage and works sites where major works are planned to establish potential ecological constraints including protected species and invasive species.
  • Presence or likely absence surveys for bats at 82 structures, great crested newt presence / absence surveys at 15 water bodies, water vole and otter surveys covering over 23km of bankside habitat and 12 badger sett assessments.
  • Provision of nine dedicated PTS certified ecologists based in Cardiff providing vital on-site ecological supervision and watching briefs to check for breeding birds and reptiles during works.
  • Training provided for ABC Electrification’s ground works supervisors to give them the knowledge to manage a situation if they find a protected species on site.
  • Provision of site specific ecological advice on avoidance and mitigation techniques for works affecting protected species and protected sites.

Recommendations and outcomes

Thomson Ecology continues to work with ABC Electrification as the scheme develops and provide ecological advice and consultation in a timely manner. The results of surveys are shared with Network Rail and other contractors working on the scheme.

Jane Jukes, Environmental Manager for ABC Electrification said:

“This was ABC Electrification’s first experience of working with Thomson Ecology and I have found them extremely professional and collaborative in their support in delivering this complex and challenging programme of works.”

Reptile and water vole translocation, Wallasea

Client: Bam Nuttall Ltd
Location: Wallasea, Essex

The brief

A partnership between the RSPB and Crossrail will see waste material from a major cross-London rail project being used in the creation of a new 670ha nature reserve in Essex. The land will be transformed into marshes, lagoons and mudflats to attract birds and other wildlife. Thomson Ecology was initially commissioned by Bam Nuttall to assist with reptile translocation.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • Approximately 20 ecologists translocated reptiles on site, to a tight deadline, within the optimal translocation season.
  • The following Spring, 30 ecologists translocated the water voles in the area to a suitable receptor site under a protected species licence. This translocation was the biggest of its kind undertaken to date in the UK.

In this programme we worked closely with Thomson Habitats, who:

  • supplied and installed the water vole fencing
  • installed earth coffer dams to block off ditches and facilitate the drain-down
  • cleared over 125,000 m2 of vegetation within ditches and on the banks to facilitate the trapping and displacement
  • destructively searched 9000m of water vole ditches and over 1000 burrows
  • supplied and installed 30 custom water vole release pens within the receptor area

We worked with Natural England and a doctorate student to test the efficacy of a new method of water vole displacement. This was done alongside more traditional methods.

The outcome

We completed an exceptionally large-scale translocation of both water voles and reptiles on budget and on time. Works are ongoing at the site and when complete, this will be Europe's largest nature reserve.

Water vole and otter surveys, Great Western Route Modernisation

Client: ABC Electrification

Location: Bristol to Cardiff

The brief

As part of Network Rail's Great Western Route Modernisation project ABC Electrification is delivering the electrification of the railway between Bristol and Cardiff. ABC Electrification plans to install Overhead Line Equipment (OLE), which will require piling works along the route.

The 80 km stretch of railway to be developed crosses, or is adjacent to, seven UK protected sites and 11 locally protected sites. Features along the route have the potential to support a number of protected species including water voles and otters.

Thomson Ecology has been commissioned to advise on ecology constraints affecting the works. Part of this is to carry out surveys for specific species as have been identified in earlier scoping work.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

Thomson Ecology carried out water vole surveys on suitable water bodies within 25 m of the train line and otter surveys on suitable water bodies within 100m of the train line.

  • This included habitat suitability and sign surveys of 61 water bodies, surveying a total of over 23 km of bankside habitat.
  • Signs of water vole were identified at four water bodies and signs of otters were also identified at four water bodies.
  • A re-survey of the water bodies where water vole and otter signs were identified was recommended prior to the piling works. The aim of these surveys was to identify the locations of water vole burrows and to check if any otter holts had been created in the time since the initial survey was undertaken and immediately before works started.
  • A works exclusion zone of 10 m was recommended where signs of water vole were identified to ensure that works carried out adhered to relevant legislation so avoiding the need for mitigation works.
  • Where access to a water body was not possible, a precautionary method of working (PMW) was recommended to the client to minimise any potential negative impacts on water voles or otters and to avoid costly delays to their programme of works.

Recommendations and outcomes

Thomson Ecology continues to work with ABC Electrification as the scheme develops and to provide ecological advice and consultation in a timely manner. The results of surveys are shared with Network Rail and other contractors working on the scheme.

Jane Jukes, Environmental Manager for ABC Electrification said:

“This was ABC Electrification’s first experience of working with Thomson Ecology and I have found them extremely professional and collaborative in their support in delivering this complex and challenging programme of works.”

Renewable

Ecology surveys, Triton Knoll Offshore Windfarm

Client: RWE
Location: Triton Knoll Offshore Windfarm

The brief

RWE were seeking planning permission for the onshore components of the Triton Knoll Offshore Wind Farm. A number of potential cable route options were initially under consideration prior to the selection of the 60 km route. Thomson Ecology assisted our client throughout the planning process by assessing the ecological value of the proposed route options. We designed and implemented numerous habitat and species surveys throughout three years of works, often rapidly mobilising large numbers of our qualified staff to complete the work. The survey work culminated in the production of the ecology chapter of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • We held regular consultations with key stakeholders, including RWE, Natural England and the Wildlife Trust during the Evidence Plan process of the EIA, to agree pragmatic approaches to survey methodologies and data gathering.
  • We focussed on parts of the route, through innovative use of TIM (Thomson Ecology’s interactive mapping tool), to avoid ecologically sensitive features and combine surveys where possible for added value and time saving.
  • We conducted extended Phase 1 habitat survey across over 5000 hectares.
  • We carried out a full suite of protected species surveys, including Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) assessments for great crested newts within 2800 ditches and 300 ponds.
  • We carried out bat transects and static monitoring, resulting in over 4000 hours of monitoring, and analysis of approximately 30,000 bat calls.
  • We conducted breeding bird surveys of the full 60 km route, which we believe to be one of the largest breeding bird surveys undertaken in the UK.
  • This culminated in the production of the ecology chapter of the EIA.

Recommendations and outcomes

Thomson Ecology successful delivered the complete survey package, including the production of the (draft) ecology chapter, on time and on budget.

Environmental Statement for wind farm

Client: Confidential
Location: Southern England

The brief

We were commissioned in early 2012 to undertake detailed surveys along the approximately 40km cable route for a proposed wind farm in the South of England. Work included surveys for breeding birds, badgers, reptiles, great crested newts and a mammal scoping survey. Further bat, water vole, otter and dormouse surveys followed to inform the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Finally we prepared the ecology and ornithology chapters of the Environmental Statement. The methods used for the survey work were discussed extensively and approved by Natural England in advance.

What Thomson Ecology did for the client

  • An extended Phase 1 habitat survey had been undertaken on site with broad recommendations for further surveys
  • Thomson Ecology worked with the client and the local Natural England office to agree a pragmatic survey programme and methodology and implemented the agreed approach
  • The approach to bat surveys involved undertaking eight transect surveys , totalling 64 hours of survey time and multiple static monitoring surveys with a total of 1,473 hours of survey time
  • We also carried out a detailed bat scoping survey of trees within the site followed by both tree climbing and dusk emergence and dawn return surveys on trees highlighted as having the potential to support bats
  • Mammal scoping survey of approximately 490ha
  • Great crested newt surveys of over 50 water bodies
  • Dormouse survey of six key areas using a total of 440 nest tubes and 110 nest boxes
  • Aquatic invertebrates surveys

Recommendations and outcomes

We produced comprehensive stand-alone reports for each of the above surveys then wrote the ecology and ornithology chapters of the Environmental Statement.