REC was recently commissioned to conduct an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey for a proposed solar array farm on a 37ha site in West Drayton, Greater London. When completed, the facility will generate enough electricity to power around 1,650 homes. As part of the planning application requirements, an assessment of the site’s ecological constraints was required. The Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey was undertaken when the development plans were still at the design stage and several options were being considered. The potential ecological constraints that were raised as a result of the survey helped shape the final design of the project.
Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey
An Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey was undertaken by one of REC’s qualified ecologists in March 2014 and included a desktop study, site walkover, production of a map of habitats on site and a report. The majority of the site consisted of heavily grazed pasture with some scrub, hedgerow and tree line along the boundary, as well as a pond in one corner.
The Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey walkover included the assessment of water bodies for their suitability to be used by great crested newts, a European protected species. However, due to heavy rain in previous months and the flooded condition of the site, the assessment of the pond could not be fully carried out. In order to address this issue, we provided targeted advice to remove the need for most protected species surveys. However, as the final plans include the removal of the pond, a second site walkover was undertaken to assess the pond suitability for great crested newt when it was not abnormally flooded. This indicated that a full Great Crested Newt Survey should be carried out in accordance with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
Great Crested Newt Survey
Due to their legal protection, Great Crested Newt Surveys have to follow standard practice guidelines as set by Natural England. These dictate which survey techniques can be used (netting, torching, egg search and bottle trapping), the number of visits (four to six visits), the survey season (at least half of all visits need to be undertaken between mid-April and mid-May) and the acceptable weather conditions to undertake the survey.
As we provided our client with prompt advice, the Great Crested Newt Survey was scheduled in a matter of days to ensure all requirements would be satisfied and the results would be available when the site planning application is processed later in the year.
REC also carried out the Flood Risk Assessment for this site. To read the full case study, click here.