Jon Riley, ECL.
When developers are looking at a development site, they do not always see the wildlife value of that site.This is where consultancies such as Ecology Consultancy Ltd come in. A data search, or ‘desk-top study’, is carried in the early stages of an ecological survey for a development, to obtain existing records for the site and to form an initial idea of the biodiversity interest of the locality. Biodiversity records centres hold data from a variety of recorders and are an efficient way for ecological consultancies to obtain data from different sources. As well as being one of the main users of records centres, consultants are potentially one of the main contributors of data.
Developments often require a range of surveys in the course of gaining planning consent, and consultants’ survey data is of potential value to naturalists and conservation professionals, as well as to other consultants. All too often this data remains buried in reports and is never made more widely available.This data could be forwarded to a biodiversity records centre after obtaining clients’ consent, helping to augment this rich resource base. Working this way has long-term benefits for all concerned. Records centres should be seen as the central repository for biodiversity information – the more that consultants add their own results to this resource, the better the results of their own and other users’ future desk-top studies.
Contributions by consultancies could improve the value of desktop studies by:
- Providing a stronger basis for evaluating the biodiversity value of sites and assessing their potential for protected species;
- Increasing the range of taxonomic groups for which data is held. Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) places emphasis on the presence of national biodiversity action plan species, making it increasingly important that sites are assessed for under recorded and difficult-to-identify species groups;
- Improving efficiency by pooling the data generated by consultancies, in turn improving our service and helping to generate repeat business.