Today sees my fourth client newsletter. Please click on the icon below to upload it. Note that blue underlined text is hyperlinked and will direct you to third party websites.
With best wishes for 2013
November 2012 was the first month that I managed to find no time, none whatsoever, where I could sit down and write a blog since I started as a freelance ecologist in April 2011. And in doing so, I marvel at Mark Avery’s ability to write a blog, and a very good and interesting blog it is too, every day. My lack of blog writing can be attributed to three possible, and all positive, reasons: Niamh, Caitlin and paid work. Having a toddler (Niamh, aged three) and a baby (Caitlin, aged 2 months) is not condusive to sitting down in the evening and thinking about, and then writing about ecology; I am too busy either cooking, washing-up, supervising bed time, cuddling, consoling or calming a baby, doing the ‘nursery run’ (on foot) or just relaxing. And during the day, I have been busy undertaking winter bird surveys in Cumbria, Tyneside, Lancashire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire for a range of clients and a variety of reasons. All in all, it has been a busy period; which is set to continue until at least March 2013 and quite possibly in to the summer. And this is excluding being a parent which will keep me busy until, well, at least to the year 2030!
So why, you may ask, have I called this blog, ‘Winter Blues’? Well, for a start, as I write in my new office, looking up through the glass roof, the sky is blue and the outside thermometer has barely passed the 2° C mark. A glorious winter’s day (in my opinion). If it weren’t for my lingering cold, courtesy of Niamh, then I might be out searching for elusive waxwings, which I did see in Leeds city centre in November 2012. Another possible reason is the ongoing news about Chalera fraxinea (ash-die back fungus) which is reputed to result in a large-scale reduction of ash trees within the British landscape. For me, the ash tree is one of the UK’s charismatic trees and one of the easiest to identify, even in winter (the black buds are the colour of ash). I wonder what Yorkshire woodlands will look like by the time Niamh and Caitlin are old enough to confidently identify an ash tree? This is certainly not good news though whether it could have been avoided is disputed. For what it is worth, I believe that we would have eventually ‘got it’ any way, regardless of imports but others may well disagree. So, in some ways, winter blues can represent emotions at either end of a wide spectrum.
But back to ecological matters. In October 2012, the Government announced that a review of all planning guidance will be undertaken. This will include guidance relevant to ecologists; such as:
In a blog wrote back in April 2012, I confirmed that these two documents remained ‘live’ despite the repeal of Planning Policy Statement 9 as a consequence of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Well, the review is likely, as I understand it, to result in these two documents, along with others, to be either culled, reduced, re-written or left untouched. The Government has a track record of wanting culls, and a track record of failing to achieve their ambitions to cull, so I am not overly concerned (yet!) that the resulting review will remove any biodiversity guidance. However, I am as certain as I can realistically be that the above two documents, and possibly others, will be different post-review though we have to wait and see. And all this comes at a time when the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (my professional body) will receive shortly, it’s Royal Charter; thus implying that the Queen (at least) considers the natural environment is of great importance and deserves very high recognition.
Furthermore, around spring 2013, the new British Standard on biodiversity (BS 42020 Biodiversity in Planning and Development – Code of Practice) will be published (it is in the final consultation round at the moment as I understand), increasing the importance and status of biodiversity within the planning system. It will be interesting to see whether the new planning guidance conflicts with the new British Standard; or how well it fits together. I will certainly aim to blog on this, assuming I have the time!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged British Standards, BS42020 Biodiversity in Planning & Development, Ecology Surveys, IEEM, Mark Avery, National Planning Policy Framework, NPPF, Winter ecology surveys | 3 Comments »
Controversy. It’s an emotive word and not surprisingly, it’s use can be controversial.
And in the last 18 months, there has been a great deal of controversy in the field of ecology, in the field of planning, and in the fields themselves. And you can read about other ecological controversies here, here, here, here, here and here. I cannot remember the last time there has been such consistent controversy around ecological subjects as diverse as illegal persecution of birds of prey (raptors), the use of lead shot, upland habitat management, badgers and bovine tuberculosis (bTB) or environmental awareness.
But what has this got to do with a blog that primarily writes about ecology within the planning system?Continue Reading »
Well, that was the summer that nearly wasn’t; to almost paraphrase a 1960s satire.
I’m writing this in my new office, under the rain and overlooking my garden. A much better view than the one I had previously.
The garden has a pond (with newts, but not these ones, and frogs in), which is planted up with native flora – purple loosestrife, brooklime, gypsywort, yellow-flag, common fleabane, cuckoo-flower and greater bird’s-foot trefoil…to name but seven species. Surrounding the pond is a ‘meadow’; well, it is half the lawn that is left uncut between April and approximately September, which I’ve supplemented with some other native species, such as common bird’s-foot trefoil, common knapweed, cowslip, ox-eye daisy and meadow buttercup. If I had my way entirely, I’d have stripped off the lawn, inverted the soil and sown a wildflower meadow mix…but I had to compromise, such is married life!
The garden is now my daughter’s playground so the meadow is subjected to a little more trampling than usual, and the snails get a bit more harassed and the little frogs get a good work out as my daughter practices being an ecologist…but she is only three and it is great to know that she won’t be suffering from nature defecit-disorder. And in no more than two weeks time, she’ll be joined by a baby brother or sister…so I may be preoccupied during the last few days of September and the first week or so in October.
In the meantime, I hope to be able to spend a little more time writing; it’s been a while since I last wrote a technical blog and there has been much to write about – those of you that read my summer newsletter will recall that I mentioned the Good Practice Guidance for Green Infrastructure, which was published in July 2012; or the European Biodiversity Standard; and there is this website too which is well-worth a look. My lack of writing has largely been due to a lot of survey work, which has included Phase 1 habitat, invertebrate and birds, with a little bit of helping out on nocturnal (and dawn) bat surveying. My autumn and winter is looking to be reasonably busy too, if some of the proposals come to fruition; but that doesn’t mean to say I wouldn’t want more!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Biodiversity Planning, Biodiversity Standard, Bird surveys, Ecology & Planning, Ecology Surveys, Good Practice Guidance for Green Infrastructure, invertebrate surveys, NPPF | 5 Comments »
August. The eighth month of the year and a period that many look forward to as a time to take a break, enjoy the British weather (not!) and perhaps seek some countryside. Somewhere to relax, somewhere to play, somewhere to recharge the batteries. And after the heady days of July with its golds, silvers and bronzes, it is not long before another season of golds and bronzes descends…autumn. It is perhaps, an inbetween month?
Readers of this blog will have perhaps been disappointed to have been unable to read anything new since mid-July; which as my last couple of entries have suggested, is due to me being out a lot surveying. This suggestion is entirely accurate as I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time in the British countryside (when not in the French countryside) undertaking various surveys, in particular breeding birds, Phase 1 habitat and invertebrates. And it is looking like it will remain accurate throughout August and in to September (but please do call me if you need (or think you need) a survey) – contact details here.
August is also, in the political calendar, a period of relative inactivity but in the last week or so, there has been some interesting ideas (or tentative suggestions) for changes to our planning regime. Now, readers will recall a regular series of blogs on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (e.g. see here, here and here…oh go on, here too) that were written from summer 2011 until the NPPF’s publication in March 2012. Well, the collapse of Lord’s reform, not a subject that many ecologists will have thought would impact their jobs, has left room for a new Bill, with a working title of Economic Regeneration; and it is said that George Osborne, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander are looking to relax the protection afforded to the greenbelt. It will be worth paying attention to Andrew Lainton’s blog here to keep up to date with developments. However, it is my prediction that any rule changes will surely affect more Conservative MPs (than Labour) as their constituencies probably contain more greenbelt. I suspect this could be the ‘next debate’ relating to planning regulation in the UK. But it could also raise the question from a biodiversity and nature conservation perspective: brownfield versus greenfield.
And finally, please take a look at my latest client newsletter and think about what surveys you could require in autumn and winter – bird surveys for your wind farm development, especially if your site is located within a migration route; or ecology walkovers to put you in an informed position for spring 2013. Remember…Think! Act! Commission! Ecology!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Bird surveys, George Osborne, Greenspace, National Planning Policy Framework, NPPF, Phase 1 habitat survey, TACE, Think! Act! Commission! Ecology!, Wind Farms | 1 Comment »
Apologies for the lack of blog entries over the last month. It is not because I have lost the desire to write; but the time to write! This spring and summer (well, technically we’re in summer) has seen me in Sussex, the West Midlands, Tyneside and the last two weeks, the Brenne National Park and the Pyrenees National Park; both in France. July continues to be busy but I will try and get ‘pen to paper’ and write an illustrated newsletter-type entry before the end of the month.
In the interim, if you’re requiring any ecological input, please get in touch. Remember, September traditionally marks the end of the main survey season so if you need to get that planning application in before Christmas 2012 and need to consider ecology (have you vegetation on your site, or buildings which may harbour bats?) then get your request in now!