We work with a range of local authorities and agencies such as Natural England to ensure adequate protection for key nature conservation sites. In particular much of our work has focussed on the Habitats Regulations, considering the links between where new houses are built, recreation and impacts on European sites. Our work has included detailed mitigation strategies, work on Suitable Alternative Nature Greenspace (SANGS) and acting as Expert Witness at public inquires. We do not tend to carry out protected species surveys of development sites and do not work for commercial developers.
Habitats Regulation Assessments
We undertake Habitats Regulations Assessments of plans & projects that may affect wildlife sites designated under European directives.
Mitigation & sangs
We design and advise on mitigation measures (including Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) to avoid, cancel or reduce impacts on designated sites.
We act as Expert witnesses at Public Inquiries to provide specialist information to the Inspector on planning applications called in for decision by the Secretary of State.
Habitat Regulation Assessments & related work
Footprint Ecology is acknowledged as a leading environmental consultancy in the preparation of Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) for public bodies. Habitats Regulations Assessment is a requirement of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, as amended, which transposes the duties placed on European Member States within the Habitats Directive and Wild Birds Directive into domestic legislation.
Those duties include the protection, maintenance and restoration of European wildlife sites. Public bodies must, before undertaking or permitting others to undertake a project, or before adopting or authorising a plan, carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment to give certainty that the plan or project will not adversely affect any European wildlife site before allowing it to proceed.
The Habitat Regulation Assessments process
The Habitats Regulations Assessment process includes a series of tests that must be considered in turn. Assessing potential impacts that may occur as the result of a plan or project can include gathering new survey information, researching wider literature, modelling, GIS mapping and statistical analysis and drawing on expert opinion. We have long-standing research and assessment experience in this field, which has led to a wide range of Habitats Regulations Assessment commissions. Footprint Ecology is a leading expert in the assessment of recreational impacts on birds, heath and coastal habitats, facilitated by an extensive library of research material and specialist skills in statistical analysis.
Our work on HRAs
Footprint Ecology prides itself on the production of high quality assessments that are evidence based and fit for purpose in each case, ensuring robust protection for European wildlife sites. We work closely with our clients, statutory nature conservation bodies and wildlife organisations to provide practicable approaches in complex situations. Footprint Ecology has led the Habitats Regulations Assessment work for a number of strategic mitigation schemes across the country, involving multiple authorities and multiple European wildlife sites. Some examples are listed below. See also the Poole Harbour case study for an example of how our HRA work can integrate with other work areas to help further the conservation of a particular important area.
HRAs at plan level for many different local authorities
including Purbeck, Poole, East Devon, Teignbridge, the Broads Authority, Breckland, North Dorset, and Great Yarmouth
Strategic work on estuaries around the English coast
identifying European sites at risk from increased housing development and recreation pressures (for Natural England)
Work with a consortium of local authorities around Cannock Chase
to consider the implications of access and recreation impacts to Cannock Chase SAC
Work with the Solent Forum and a consortium of local authorities
building an evidence base around in-combination effects of housing and growth around the Solent European sites. A range of reports are available - please see downloads page for more.
Evidence gathering work for Dorset County Council
to inform appropriate assessment and planning policy relating to the Dorset Heaths
Impact assessment for a proposed new visitor centre at Spurn Point
for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Mitigation & SANGs
Measures that are intended to avoid, cancel or reduce potential effects on the natural environment are referred to as mitigation measures. Such measures are often incorporated into a plan or project to protect European sites and ensure compliance with the Habitats Regulations. Mitigation measures can avoid likely significant effects or may enable a competent authority to ascertain that a plan or project does not have an adverse effect on site integrity.
Developing mitigation schemes
Footprint Ecology has been involved in developing mitigation schemes and mitigation measures relating to plans and projects across the UK and is renowned as a specialist consultancy in developing strategic mitigation schemes for designated sites. In particular we have worked in a number of areas (such as Cannock Chase, the Dorset Heaths, North Kent, the Solent, South Devon and the Thames Basin Heaths) on strategic mitigation schemes relating to housing and recreation pressure on European sites.
Alternative greenspaces or SANGs
Alternative greenspace is one approach to resolving recreation from new developments. Such greenspace – often referred to as SANGs (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) - has to be carefully designed in order to be effective. Visitor data are often important to inform SANGs design and Footprint Ecology has undertaken visitor surveys, analysed visitor data, assessed individual SANGs sites and developed criteria relating to SANGs sites across the country. We are leading experts in this area of work and have undertaken visitor surveys or detailed assessments of over 30 individual SANGs.
Our work on mitigation
See the case study on urban development surrounding heaths for an insight into how our work on mitigation and SANGs can interact with our other work areas to address conservation issues in a given area. Examples of work on mitigation include:
South East Devon European Site Mitigation Strategy
for East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council
Work for the Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Partnership
to develop a mitigation strategy
Our work on SANGs
Examples of work on SANGs include:
Footprint Ecology staff have acted for Natural England, Wildlife Trusts and a range of local authorities at Public Inquiry and we have considerable experience of giving evidence as expert witnesses. We have appeared at inquiries into local issues, such as works on common land, and at large inquiries for major housing and industrial developments considered to have impacts on European designated sites and species or on SSSIs.
Scientific advice & proof of evidence
Our work includes advising on statements of case and other matters leading up to the inquiry and advising advocates on ecological issues during inquiries, including for cross-examination and final submissions. We prepare proofs of evidence as well as supplementary and rebuttal proofs where required, and attend inquiries to give expert evidence and answer questions under cross-examination and from the Inspector.
Detailed assessment of research
Our advice and evidence is based on a detailed assessment of the proposals and the site and species which could be affected, plus our own extensive experience. It is always soundly based on an assessment of the latest research; in a number of cases (e.g. visitor patterns and development pressures on sites and species), we have carried out research ourselves. Much of our work in this field is concerned with lowland heathland, but has also involved wetlands and woodland. Examples include:
Acting for Natural England at inquiries relating to small individual developments
around the Thames Basin Heaths
Acting for Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
in relation to Rufford Power Station
Acting for Poole Borough Council
in relation to industrial development in Poole adjacent to a heathland site
In addition to these we have appeared at a range of local plan examinations and have also given evidence in support of proposals to manage common land by grazing and fencing. Our clients have included Local Authorities, Wildlife Trusts and Natural England.
Contact us to discuss your project
We’re always ready to talk about your requirements, so please do get in touch today