We surveyed 61 sites in total, covering 480ha and a broad range of landscape types. An important element of our work involved presenting ecological constraints and opportunities and local green infrastructure networks in both report and GIS format. The extensive nature of the work resulted in a 1500 page report divided into 20 chapters that is publicly available on the council website.
The Ecology Consultancy carried out Preliminary Ecological Appraisals for 61 Strategic Sites (which made up 13 larger Strategic Development Areas). Phase 1 habitat surveys and protected species assessments supported by detailed desk studies formed the backbone of our work. As both The Ecology Consultancy and Wealden District Council are partners to Sussex’s biological records centre we were able to efficiently collate, interpret and present large datasets using GIS.
We used bespoke field recording sheets as a rapid method to capture standard species and habitat data as well as green infrastructure, management practice and socio-economic information relating to ecological resources.
Our report identified specific habitats of value and sensitivity, and made recommendations for the protection, maintenance, enhancement, restoration and creation of habitats. The report also identified opportunities to improve Wealden District’s green infrastructure provision and network. To frame each site in terms of its wider landscape role we utilised a range of datasets including designated nature conservation sites, habitats and species of principal importance (formerly known as UK Biodiversity Action Plan habitats and species), public rights of way, tree preservation orders, Biodiversity Opportunity Areas, Landscape Character Areas, flood zones data, and ancient woodland.
At one Strategic Development Area, which is part designated as a Local Wildlife Site, we also carried out Phase 2 ecology work including breeding bird, reptile and botanical (National Vegetation Classification) surveys.
The Ecology Consultancy’s Lewes Office worked closely with the local planning authority to provide a service tailored to the needs of their emerging Local Development Framework. Our work assisted them in the following ways:
- determining the distribution of future housing/employment provision within the broad Strategic Development Areas and the suitable allocation of land for development;
- developing future planning policies and principles which seek to protect, conserve and enhance local biodiversity and contribute to the District’s green infrastructure network;
- providing sufficient information to assist in the determination of planning applications and decision making in relation to protecting and enhancing biodiversity in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and relevant local planning policy; and
- providing baseline information to assist in the future monitoring of each Strategic Site and the broader Strategic Development Area in which they are located.