Birds, bats and EIAs
Tim Reed Ecological Consultants works as a scientific, ornithological and ecological expert reviewer of documents submitted for planning proposals. This may eventually include Expert Witness work at Public Inquiries.
Our role is to look at the quality of the ecological, ornithological, bat and other data provided by the would-be developers for sites, and to assess whether the data are suitable for determining the range of impacts ( often stated as no impacts) claimed by both developers and opponents.
In each location we look at the site in detail: from field visits and then the variable quality of data and methods used in formal submissions; although these data are often poorly presented, and methods are often deficient. These are then used to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the development case. If we think there is a case, we submit written evidence, based on examination of the data and documents provided by both sides, and if called to Inquiry are cross-examined at length by QCs.
We continue to be asked to review the data provided by developers for individual housing developments through to road schemes, and provide impartial advice for birds, bats and wider ecological issues.
Impact evaluation in the Ecuadorian Amazon Forest
Over a number of years we worked on projects in the forest in different parts of the Andean foothills. Our initial role there was a field-based evaluation of the potential impacts of the companies as they operated in little-altered rainforest. This reviewed the risks to the company and the environment of operational options in the short, medium and long term.
We designed studies to assess background change rates and potential operating impacts on the rich biodiversity in the project areas over space and time, and provided steering guidance and peer review scrutiny to the local University Partner. We have since made inputs into potential infastructure design and monitoring of effects as the operation has expanded.
The main project has begun to publish the results in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Applied Ecology.
NAO and SSSIs
As one of our directors was the lead in the development of Commons Standards Monitoring for conservation sites, it was natural that Government drew on our expertise when assessing how well the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) system was delivering conservation objectives in England.
We made a major input to a value-for-money study of Natural England's SSSIs by the National Audit Office (NAO). We designed the study with NAO and provided a specialist team of habitat experts to carry out the study in the field, and then provided scientific support to NAO's economic analyses, before final submission to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.
We spent a number of years working in Congo on an ecosystem service study, looking at how an energy company might recognise and minimise its biodiversity and ecosystem service (BES) impacts, and maximise the benefits for the rural communities in the area, over the full life cycle of the operation.
The initial input involved undertaking a BES risk assessment in the mix of rain forest, savannah and coast communities crossed by the company's infrastructure. This lead to developing baseline resource assessments and designing monitoring protocols for company and partner use, and their implementation.
Having designed the survey methods and requirements, the detailed field work is now being undertaken by a major American NGO and incorporated, as agreed, in the company's HSE systems.
Motorway service areas
Like any other potential development, motorways and support areas- especially service areas- need careful planning.
We have been working on a possible service area in the north of England. Potentially sited in an ancient woodland, we have advised that its placement, rationale and methods used in surveys, and resultant data are all inappropriate for planning purposes.
We expect that if a developer claims to have done something, then they did, and can show it. In this case, the data and methods were not fully as claimed, and some are missing, and cannot demonstrate claimed no impacts. It remains with planners to decide on the case.
The result of our works was to delay the proposal, so that, two years on, it is hanging in abeyance as the case starts to unravel on data and procedural grounds.
Like any other proposal, housing demands suitable data to assess possible impacts- especially when Protected Species such as bats are involved.
The site shown here failed to gather suitable data, used incorrect data sources and made unsubstantiated claims without data to back them up; they were also out of date. The result was a data set that was not fit-for-purpose in any sense.
If planners are to make an informed decision, then they need suitable, correctly gathered data, with a clear assessment of limitations. Otherwise, developers may well be asked to go back and get new (more suitable) data, and risk a year's delay. In this case, this happened- but the methods were still wrong and data were missing.