Many successful planning applications involve a commitment on the part of a developer to create new habitat or manage retained habitat. This is often undertaken under the guidance of a Habitat Management Plan. We have substantial experience in the field of habitat management plan preparation and creation, as well as practical experience overseeing plan delivery on the ground.
What is a habitat management plan?
In its simplest form, a habitat management plan provides a guide for land managers to facilitate works that will result over time in maintenance of, or increase in, the biodiversity value of retained and/or newly created habitats. A plan may be included as part of a mitigation package submitted by a developer as part of a development proposal, or it may be required in a planning condition.
In some cases the plan will focus upon species as well as habitats; for example Andrew McCarthy worked recently on a high profile residential development in London at which the local planning authority granted consent but conditioned a management plan to ensure restoration of two large waterbodies, together with terrestrial habitat used by a population of great crested newts. This set out how conditions for this species would be improved and specified the time period over which the enhancement works would take place (10 years). The plan not only set out the mitigation measures needed to protect the newt population but also the habitat creation measures that were needed to compensate for the loss of a small amount of land-take associated with the development. The habitat management plan also took into account other species - for example veteran trees and their specialist management needs, as well as the ecological requirements of tree-roosting bats, hole-nesting birds and the scarce white-letter hairstreak butterfly.
Key elements within a habitat management plan
Why is the plan being prepared?
If the plan is required to comply with a planning condition then this should be stated at the outset. Conversely, if the habitat management plan follows a commitment from the developer within a planning application, then the commitment should be restated. The important point is to clarify why the plan exists.
What are its aims?
The plan should state its aims at the outset. In the London example given above, the aim was to safeguard a remnant population of great crested newts by enhancing the condition of habitats around the development site and to compensate for any residual negative effects arising from land take.
How will the work prescribed in the plan be delivered?
The prescriptions that are required to ensure the aims are achieved are normally stated clearly in a separate section, together with who will be responsible for delivery. It is also usual to include a matrix table with key elements of works being listed and costed over the lifetime of the plan.
Are the measures within the habitat management plan successful in achieving the aims?
A habitat management plan usually involves an element of post-development monitoring to ensure that the success (or otherwise) of the plan can be measured and the prescriptions that are used evaluated. Monitoring can take many forms and the method/s chosen will depend on many factors. For example when monitoring a bat colony, the surveillance might be as simple as an annual count of emerging bats. By contrast, a plan with the aim of enhancing species-rich grassland may require collection of grassland plant frequency and cover data using quadrat sampling over a period of years. Whatever method is used, a check will need to be made to see whether the direction of ecological change (if any) is in line with the plan aims. If not, then a report is likely to be needed that describes the remediation measures required to ensure that the original plan aims can be met.
We can prepare your habitat management plan and oversee its delivery. Contact us on 01392 833345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.