Avian have provided ecological support for a number of solar farm sites across the UK ranging from Cornwall to Nottinghamshire and Basingstoke, for a major renewables company. Sites have ranged in size (averaging at 100ha) and requirements; such as non-EIA to EIA developments. Survey works have included Extended Phase 1 habitat and botanical survey as well as protected species surveys for great crested newts, birds, badger, otters and water vole. We engaged early with the client during the layout design, to determine bespoke mitigation for each site. This not only benefited the client, limiting the need for site layout changes further down the line, but will also benefit biodiversity ensuring high valuable habitats are retained where possible. Examples include, adopting buffers around waterbodies, watercourses, hedgerows, woodland and badger setts.
We also liaised with the landscape team to determine habitat enhancement measures for each site and ultimately ensure biodiversity net gain is achieved. A range of measures have been adopted including; native hedgerow planting and infilling, bat and bird boxes, species diverse grassland seeding below solar panels, meadow seeding around field boundaries and a butterfly conservation area to complement the nearby Site of Special Scientific Interest. Biodiversity net gain results have ranged between 18 and 35% for habitat areas and 9 and 20% for hedgerow, significantly more than the guideline 10% for habitats. The calculations have been favourably reviewed by the LPA ecologists and prevented further site layout/landscape plan changes for the client.
As well as providing clear liaison with the client, we have communicated with outside bodies regarding these developments including local bird groups, record centres and county and local wildlife trust ecologists to gather information for use in the application and ultimately ensure legislative compliance and a smooth transition for ecology through the planning process.