Greengage were commissioned by Clague Architects on behalf of Freetown Homes Ltd to undertake a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal for a site in Chigwell, in the Epping Forest District of Essex. Proposals sought to develop two new residential dwellings with associated car parking and private gardens.
The aim was to assess the ecological value of the site and the presence/likely absence of protected species. Through the delivery of this work a number of potential ecological constraints were identified.
Through a detailed desk study, it was identified that the site was within 6km of the Epping Forest Special Area for Conservation (SAC), a European designated site. Under European legislation, the Local Planning Authority (LPA), Epping Forest District Council, have a responsibility to ensure any future planning decisions do not result in adverse effects on the integrity of the Epping Forest SAC. A key potential effect from residential development is increased recreational pressure on the SAC. To mitigate this potential effect the LPA provide Suitable Alternative Green Spaces (SANG) to which new residents would use instead of the SAC, thereby eliminating the risk of increased recreational pressure on the SAC from increased residential development. Developers bringing residential plans forward in the area are required to provide a financial contribution towards the creation of these SANGs. Greengage advised early consultation with the LPA to confirm whether any financial contributions were required with respect to the Hainault Road development and provided assistance where required.
Additionally, the site survey identified the potential for the site to support reptiles. However, due to the scale of the development, the largely residential context of the site and the poor habitat connectivity with the wider landscape, Greengage recommended a pragmatic approach involving a destructive search of suitable habitat under an ecological watching brief. The method of the destructive search will be detailed within an Ecological Management Plan.
It was also recommended that a line of mature trees on the boundary of the site were retained and integrated in to the development. This line of trees offered multiple benefits including possible commuting and foraging resource for local bats.
Finally, to ensure a net gain in biodiversity post development, Greengage made recommendations for deliverable enhancement measures. The recommendations for enhancement included wildlife friendly landscaping and the installation of bird and bat boxes.