In 2010, as part of the proposed Galloper Wind Farm off the coast of Suffolk, The Ecology Consultancy (TEC) was appointed to act as project ecologists for the onshore elements of the development, notably the construction of a new substation near Sizewell.
The wind farm is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) involving the installation of 56 wind turbines, with the capacity to generate up to 353 megawatts (MW) of energy.
Prior to works commencing on site for the substation and cable route, The Ecology Consultancy was commissioned to carry out an extended Phase 1 survey to help inform the final site layout and provide baseline ecological information to support the planning application and to identify ecological constraints associated with the proposed development.
Further to the Phase 1 survey, our Norfolk ecologists carried out badger and reptile surveys of the proposed cable route and two areas to be considered for the construction of the substation. Following this, the final site boundary and works area was determined and further protected species surveys were undertaken in 2011. These included a reptile survey, ground level tree assessment and activity surveys for bats, and an NVC plant survey of a section of the site.
In 2012, to reduce impacts on reptiles, we developed a detailed reptile mitigation plan, which included an extensive translocation of all four widespread species of reptile from the works area to an on-site receptor area for which we oversaw the habitat enhancement and management.
We also carried out surveys and obtained a European Protected Species Mitigation (EPSM) licence for bats. The licence was specifically tailored to the complex requirements associated with the scale of the project and its status as an NSIP and we were able to provide ongoing support to the client and obtain amendments to the licence in a timely fashion to accommodate the developing plans for the site.
Our mitigation proposals were reviewed by the LPA and NE as well as the Local Wildlife Trust as part of the Planning Inspectorate review of the project. We also provided evidence at the issue-specific hearing where mitigation measures were discussed.
We drew up an Ecological Management Plan (EMP) for the site, taking into account the concerns and views of the Local Wildlife Trust whilst ensuring that the development could proceed as required.
When the enabling works for the substation began, we were appointed to provide Ecological Clerks of Works (ECoW). To oversee the works and ensure that appropriate consideration was given to potential impacts on the ecology of the site in relation to bats, reptiles and nesting birds, we undertook:
- regular visits to check for the presence of protected species (in particular: reptiles, bats, skylark);
- checks and maintenance of the reptile fence, supervision of site clearance including clearance of vegetation, tree felling and soil stripping.
To enable delivery to programme, a pragmatic approach was taken to site clearance for skylarks with destructive searches carried out during bird-nesting season.
Our ecologists tackled unusual ecological constraints throughout the project. Liaising closely and efficiently with the Principal Contractors, UXO (unexploded ordnance) investigators, archaeologists and the ECoW team, we ensured that all works were carried out in an appropriate and timely manner, allowing the construction of the substation itself to begin on schedule, whilst always showing flexibility in the face of changing client plans.
Through close consultation with other stakeholders such as Natural England and Suffolk Wildlife Trust, our experts were able to devise detailed mitigation measures to reduce the project’s impacts on biodiversity.
Furthermore, through reptile and bat monitoring we have demonstrated the positive results of our mitigation, with bats using the boxes provided and reptiles present in the receptor area.
Cassie Greenhill, Consents Manager, Innogy, December 2019: “TEC have been working on our wind farm project since 2010. Although I joined the project more recently, I am impressed with the range of ecological services they have provided over the years, including a delicate translocation project for reptiles, and working closely with Natural England to develop a satisfactory bat licence.
Galloper has experienced some unusual ecological constraints that TEC have expertly and proficiently tackled. For example, they represented us at a Planning Hearing, worked with unexploded bomb investigators, and liaised with the Local Wildlife Trust to obtain their support for our Mitigation Plan.
Their continued involvement means we continue to be confident of our compliance with wildlife legislation. We are confident that TEC will work flexibly to help us maximise biodiversity benefits.”