Now, more than ever, environmental factors are having significant financial impacts upon construction and engineering projects.

What’s more, with UK and European legislation becoming ever larger and more complex, it can often be difficult simply keeping track of what your obligations are.

Whatever the ecological demands of your site, XRAIL’ ecologists work with you and the relevant authorities to provide a comprehensive range of ecology surveys, management and advisory services designed to keep you safe, compliant and legal. Our environmental consultants can help eliminate stress and confusion by providing professional, qualified environmental advice from the start to the very end of your project.

The XRAIL Group have been extremely accommodating in carrying out thorough ecological, PEA and bat surveys at short notice on a number of our development opportunities. Communication and response times have been prompt and the reports have encompassed all information we have required, all received in a timely manner. We would highly recommend The XRAIL Group for their services.

Jo Allen MEng PGDip Surv, Project Manager, The Sovini Group

After requesting some surveys to XRAIL, Ian Johnson was the point of contact for XRAIL and he produced an outstanding work. The surveys were carried out in time and the report was received in programme with high standards. I would recommend working with XRAIL, and in particular with Ian Johnson.

Alejandro Salazar-Rodriguez, Design Engineer (Civils), Network Rail

With a client base stretching across the UK’s construction, rail and civils sectors, our services include…

  • Preliminary ecological appraisals
  • JNCC Phase 1 habitat surveys
  • Protected species surveys
  • Ecology chapters for environmental statements
  • Natural England Licence applications
  • Ecologist input for BREEAM and CSH

Bat surveys

Did you know that there are actually 18 different species in the UK but that, according to many surveys both new and old, almost all of these are believed to be in decline?

Recognised as a very real problem, in 1981 the UK Government passed the Wildlife and Countryside Act which resulted in each and every UK species of bats being protected under UK law. Whilst bat surveys had existing before this time (primarily for academic purposes), this was essentially the dawn of commercial bat surveys in the UK.

So what does this mean for your development? Well, put simply it is now against the law to kill, disturb, capture or injure bats or even to damage their natural nesting sites. Substantial case law generated over the past 30 years has led to significant fines being imposed on contractors, developers and local authorities alike. The really worrying thing is that many of these organisations did actually go to the effort of approaching a reputable bat surveys firm prior to starting on site.

So where did they go wrong and why have they ended up out of pocket? Well, under later EU legislation a local authority is obliged to refuse planning permission out of hand unless suitable bat surveys have been carried out and the following three conditions have been met…

  • The development must be absolutely imperative and for significant health and safety or public interest purposes.
  • All other avenues must have been thoroughly investigated.
  • Conservation of the bats must be paramount and should take precedence over the cost and schedule of the project.

Badger surveys

A nocturnal mammal and one of Britain’s most loved at that, the European Badger is an incredible cautious animal being rarely seen by humans in the flesh. They may have a place in the Nation’s heart but certain s in our society may not hold them in such high regard.

One reason for this is simple… Substantial research over recent years has proved a link between badgers and the transmission of Bovine Tuberculosis to cattle causing heartache, stress and significant financial loss for farmers throughout the UK. More specifically the transmission takes places via the badger’s droppings and urine directly onto the cattle’s grazing area.

For obvious reasons for a minority of individuals this has led to significant illegal culling of badgers in an attempt to help stop the spread of this most deadly of bovine diseases, a development that has itself generated legislation and a boom in the requirement for responsible, informative badger surveys. The Protection of Badgers Act (1992) made it illegal to injure, kill capture or disturb badgers in any way and brought severe punishments into play for anyone found to have breached the conditions of their development in much the same way as with bats, great crested newts and other types of ecology.

This has had an overwhelmingly positive response with badger numbers increasing dramatically since this legislation was brought into force but with that population boost has seen badgers becoming an even greater problem for farmers and other landowners.

Do I need a badger survey?

When might you need a badger survey? Well, If you want to carry out conventional building work with 20m of a sett or pile and otherwise cause vibration within 30m you will need a license to operate and a strategy put in place to mitigate the risk to local badgers and their setts. In the worst case scenario this may involve moving your intended development but would most likely be limited to the construction of features such as badger tunnels and safe routes of passage around newly-constructed obstacles.

Crucially a badger survey is the very first step to determining how your project can proceed within the law. Given the levels of fines that could be imposed or the delays that could result, can you afford not to do a badger survey on your site?

Great Crested Newt surveys

Did you know that the Great Crested Newt is a protected species and interfering with them or their habitats can leave to severe punishments under UK and EU law? The fact that you’ve found yourself on this page suggests you probably do…

One of only six amphibious species specific to these islands, Great Crested Newts should be a major consideration to all developers, civils and railway engineering firms operating in the vicinity of ponds or other water bodies. It’s amazing quite how much of a detrimental effect such a small creature can have upon a major project when the proper steps have not been taken to mitigate the risk.

With the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) it is punishable by law for anyone to capture, kill, injure or disturb great crested newts in any way. Be that damaging their habitats or physically interfering with individual newts, developments that come into contact with these animals are strictly controlled and can only go forward once a suitable license has been awarded.

As a result, it is becoming an increasingly common condition of planning permission that appropriate great crested newt surveys be carried out to either confirm or disprove the presence of great crested newts in the area and to assess the potential impact of your proposed development upon them. It cannot be stressed enough that carrying out a great crested newt survey is not something that should be left until long down your project’s planning stage.

Key considerations

  1. Whilst general habitat surveys can and should be carried out at any time of the year, due to their particular breeding patterns certain other types of great crested newt surveys can only take place from the middle of March until the middle of June. If you leave it until after this to approach an ecology survey firm you will be too late and, by law, will have to wait until the following March before carrying out the survey. Can you afford to have your project on hold for those seven months?
  2. An initial great crested newt survey (or habitat survey) is no guarantee of being awarded planning. However thorough your ecologist might be the specifics of your case might make it necessary to carry out further, in-depth great crested newt surveys to provide yet more information to your Local Planning Authority.
  3. Local Planning Authorities are not allowed to judge any planning applications before they have all the relevant survey information in their possession.
  4. By carrying out a general habitat survey before planning conditions have been stipulated, you can assess the potential impact of great crested newts on your development and can approach the Local Planning Authority forearmed and forewarned. This is most likely something that the LPA will request anyway should your project be in an area of concern. Having this information to hand at the start of the process allows many developers’ projects to proceed far more smoothly.

Get in touch

For more information on our range of ecology surveys and to find out just how our ecologists can help you, please get in touch.

You can send a message through the quick enquiry form below or call 03450 600 700. A member of our team will be happy to help.


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