Smart ecology services on a major housing development Paul Roebuck And Jacob Kench 30 July 2023

Smart ecology services on a major housing development

Discover how smart ecology services helped support the build of much-needed homes while keeping people close to nature.

Ebbsfleet development

The issue: balancing biodiversity with a new-build housing scheme project

For more than a decade, Middlemarch has been providing ecology services at Whitecliffe Eastern Quarry – one of the United Kingdom’s largest residential housing developments, a 660-acre project providing 6,250 new homes for the wider Ebbsfleet Garden City Scheme.

As well as homes, the development also features two education campuses, residential and community spaces, and parkland providing green spaces for both residents and the broad range of biodiversity on site.

The UK Government has set itself a target to build 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s, which would require at least a million more homes of various types during the period of the next Parliament alone.

These homes are much-needed by families and communities, but how can we make sure that development is sustainable with due consideration to the natural environment?

Henley Camland, specialists in delivering serviced parcels on large-scale development sites for mixed use and residential schemes, is managing the delivery of the infrastructure for the initial phases of this high-profile project.

Each phase has benefitted from our nature-based solutions and guidance, which balance the needs of our clients, the demand for development and due consideration for the environment to ensure everyone can see and feel the value in nature.

Our approach: responsive and responsible ecology services

As the UK’s largest natural environment consultancy owned by a Wildlife Trust, we’re uniquely positioned to deliver ecology services on major projects of this scope from a single source of supply. Over the past decade, this has included species surveys, input into design, habitat management, ecological protection, supervision, mitigation and more.

Our work has been influenced by the range of flora and fauna found on site, including nationally scarce plants, fungus endemic to the chalk quarries of northern Kent and protected species including badgers, bats, dormice, reptiles and a range of schedule-1 listed birds.

For example, during the site’s redevelopment from a quarry to housing, we’ve been involved in the trapping and translocation of grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards, among other small mammals and amphibians.

The presence of all three common reptile species has made the site nationally significant for reptiles. Ongoing monitoring by Middlemarch has allowed stable populations to establish themselves within newly-created parkland on site.

As the project progresses, Middlemarch’s Southern Regional team continues to gather data on the habitats and species on site. Continued monitoring of species numbers means we can target effective enhancement measures and habitat management programmes, which currently include:

  • Rotational woodland coppice – traditional woodland coppicing work has begun to help create the mixed age and species structure required to support a range of woodland species that occur on site, notably the hazel dormouse.
  • Hedge-laying and enhancement – former boundaries on site are being restored through hedge-laying and planting, increasing connectivity around site between retained habitats.
  • Pond creation – a number of ponds suitable for breeding amphibians are being created.
  • Grassland enhancement – scrub reduction and wildflower seeding.

Current species enhancement measures installed include:

  • A bat loft – this has been created within a timber-framed community shelter using bat tiles and roosting features.
  • Sand martin barrels – beside a lake and wetland area, two nesting barrels have been installed to replicate the sand banks used by both sand martins and kingfishers.
“Time after time, Middlemarch has worked successfully and closely with us as consultants and also the site delivery team to action works in a timely manner. From a client point of view, we wouldn’t hesitate using Middlemarch on other projects with similar ecological matters.”
Mark Elwell
Project Director, Camland Consulting

The results and conclusions: ecology services at the forefront of housing development

Paul Roebuck, Regional Manager – South, Middlemarch, and Jacob Kench, Senior Ecological Consultant, Middlemarch, were responsible for managing the ecology services for this housing scheme project.

Paul said: “Our team has been working at Eastern Quarry to provide ecology services for a number of years, and this is an exciting and interesting project to be involved with. We’ve faced many challenges, not least working on a dynamic construction site of this magnitude, with a wide range of ecological issues.

“Seeing the project and development come to a phased fruition is pleasing. We’ve incorporated features and landscapes of value to biodiversity, as well as enhancing the provision of new homes, schools and other infrastructure in a way that is nature positive.

“We actively engaged with our client and key stakeholders to help deliver the project, providing skilled resources and advice. This project is an example of how Middlemarch can be a perfect partner for clients on long-term, major projects to add value for both the client and nature.”

Mark Elwell, Project Director, Camland Consulting, added: “It’s extremely important to have an ecological consultant that’s pragmatic and fully understands the site’s needs, especially by following best practice when it comes to statutory ecological requirements while having due regard to the client’s financial budget.

“Middlemarch fits the bill extremely well. Time after time, they’ve worked successfully and closely with us as consultants and also the site delivery team to action works in a timely manner. From a client point of view, we wouldn’t hesitate using Middlemarch on other projects with similar ecological matters.”

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