Our primary role is to provide the technical expertise to bridge a link between balancing complex infrastructure design requirements with an exigent requirement to conserve and protect the natural environment.
Infrastructure and building projects have a huge part to play in protecting sensitive sites, protected species, avoiding damage to ecological features and enhancing biodiversity. SYSTRA’s team of qualified and experienced ecologists work proactively to avoid and mitigate potential impacts and project risks, identify enhancement opportunities and deliver bespoke and innovative design solutions around seasonal time constraints.
Phase 1 Habitat Surveys and Preliminary Ecological Appraisal
The first stage of ecological assessment involving a combination of desk study and field survey to identify designated sites, habitats and protected, priority and invasive species that could pose a constraint to development. SYSTRA advocates appraisal of potential ecological constraints early on in the design process, which reduces project risks and leads to greater cost and programme certainty.
Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA)
Our team have experience of undertaking EcIA at all levels, from standalone EcIAs to support planning applications, to ecology chapters of Environmental Statements for major infrastructure projects.
Protected Species Surveys and Licensing
Specialised surveys for protected species such as bats, great crested newt and otter are often required to inform impact assessments. Our team holds the relevant licences to survey for a range of protected species using the latest innovative techniques, including environmental DNA sampling, infra-red/thermal imaging surveys and aerial tree inspections. We also have experience of applying for and obtaining protected species mitigation licences and designing and implementing appropriate mitigation schemes when impacts cannot be avoided.
Invasive Non-native Species Surveys
The presence of invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam can have significant cost and programme implications for developments and it is therefore important to identify any issues at an early stage. Our ecologists are trained to identify a wide range of invasive species during preliminary site surveys and can advise on requirements for avoidance, eradication and management.
Biodiversity Offsetting / Net Gain Assessments
Developments are increasingly required to offset impacts on biodiversity to comply with planning policy and other consenting regimes. The Environment Bill (currently passing through parliament) will mandate a 10% net gain in biodiversity for most development projects. The ecology team are experienced at using the necessary biodiversity metrics to quantify impacts, as well as advising on potential enhancements within development footprints and calculating offsetting requirements.
Ecological Clerk of Works and Site Supervision
We can provide ecological clerk of works / site supervision services where necessary in order to manage ecological risks on site during site preparation and construction works.
Habitat Creation, Enhancement and Management
The creation and enhancement of habitats is key to minimising the long-term effects of development on wildlife and is often required to mitigate impacts on protected species or to meet biodiversity offsetting / net gain obligations. We have experience of advising on the most appropriate and cost-effective habitat creation and enhancement solutions, as well as producing management plans detailing long term maintenance regimes and monitoring.
Habitats Regulations Assessment
Competent authorities have a legal obligation to undertake Habitats Regulations Assessment when plans or projects have the potential to adversely impact on European designated sites, and this can form part of the consenting process. The data collated to inform the assessment process is usually prepared by a consultant and we have experience of advising on options for mitigation to avoid/reduce impacts and working with colleagues in other environmental disciplines to prepare the necessary supporting information.
Our team also includes qualified arborists who can undertake tree surveys to BS5837 and produce tree constraints plans, tree protection plans and arboricultural impact assessments.