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An Interview with Principal Ecological Consultant Oliver Silver

The Green Collar sector in the UK is booming, with more than 2 million jobs expected to be created in this rapidly growing field by 2030.

As the development of this sector accelerates, more attention is also being paid to biodiversity and environmental policies, with more people showing interest in these topics, wanting to know how to get involved and incorporate ideas into everyday life.

Rullion's Environmental Consultant, Albana Istrefi, recently caught up with Oliver Silver, Principal Environmental Consultant at Thomson Environmental Consulting, to discuss Biodiversity Net Gain, the Environment Bill and Oliver’s thoughts regarding future ecological legislation. Check out the highlights of the interview below.

What are your thoughts on recent Environmental and Ecological policies?

One thing that is topical is the forthcoming Environment Bill, which will be key to improving the natural environment in the UK. As a result, we should expect Biodiversity Net Gain to become commonplace within the realm of ecological consultation. Although the Environment Bill was anticipated to be passed in 2019, the pandemic has reshuffled priorities. However, it is likely that we’ll see the bill enacted by the close of 2021.

To prepare for this, Thomson are offering and incorporating biodiversity net change calculations within their technical reports. The calculation is performed using Natural England’s Biodiversity Net Gain Tool, in combination with the UK Habitat Classification System. The accepted target for improvement is 10%. The tool takes into account things like habitat connectivity and habitat condition – not just area and habitat type – which more antiquated tools focused on. This opens the doors to clever mitigation solutions, (potentially) tucked into a small space.

Working as an Ecological Consultant for Thomson for over six years, I have noticed that ‘forced’ on-site mitigation solution for developers is often an ineffective solution. Biodiversity Net Gain is going to change that. Our clients will have the option to purchase ‘biodiversity units’ to compensate for their developments, rather than attempting to solve ecology issues directly. This means fewer delays to programme and (in my option) better, more holistic ecology solutions in the long-term.

Is there any new ecological environmental legislation that you would like to see in the future?

The Great Crested Newt (GCN) is a good example. Our clients, especially developers and major infrastructure companies encounter this (ubiquitous) species on a regular basis. GCN are strictly protected in the UK. As a snapshot, it is illegal to kill, injure or move GCN without a license.

As a result, GCN are famous for stopping works. This can have a significant impact on programme, which is often financial. Nothing new right? Well, let us consider why GCN are so strictly protected. The reason stems from European Directives (namely the Bern Convention) which was transposed into national UK legislation. Without getting overly technical, we have now left the European Union (EU), so I think our national legislation (protecting GCN) needs to be reviewed.

GCN are (in many places) abundant in the UK. Legislation needs to be proportionate to the condition on the ground and therefore, amended such that our developers have a less onerous task when they embark on projects that fuel our economy. Natural England have made positive changes in this general direction in the meantime by offering new GCN licensing options (like district level licensing), which simplifies the process for everyone.

If you'd like to discuss this topic further or find out more about Rullion's Environmental capabilities, get in touch with one of the team here.