BRISTOL MEMORIAL WOODLAND PROPOSED CHAPEL AND ASSOCIATED FACILITIES ECOLOGICAL REPORT

Updated: Mar 3

Wessex Ecological Consultancy

28 Egerton Road

Bishopston

Bristol

BS7 8HL

NOVEMBER 2015


INTRODUCTION


The purpose of this report is to assess any impact on biodiversity of proposals to construct a new chapel, with associated facilities, and to make mitigation and enhancement proposals as appropriate.


METHODS


An Extended Phase 1 field survey was carried out on 20th October 2015. The survey covered vegetation types and vascular plants, including a survey of hedges to allow assessment under the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations; birds; some groups of insects; and badgers. Trees were checked, using binoculars where necessary, for holes, crevices and dense growths of ivy that might support roosting bats. The potential value of the site for other protected species was assessed.


A survey of the wider site, including the area under consideration here, was carried out on 13th November 2012. The findings of this survey were incorporated into this report. Data provided by Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) was used.


SURVEY RESULTS


Site Description


The survey site consists of two fields, and a further strip of land that would be used for access. One of the fields is mown for silage; the other areas are currently unmanaged. The field boundaries have hedges and most of these are moderately species- rich. A small stream runs along the hedge that separates the two fields.


Vegetation


Grassland


The southern field is dominated by perennial rye-grass (Lolium perenne), with other grass species including creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera), timothy (Phleum pratense), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and cocksfoot (Dactylis glomeratus). The diversity of herbs is low, with creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), white clover (Trifolium repens), dandelion (Taraxacum vulgare agg.), hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), cut-leaved cranesbill (Geranium dissectum), red clover (Trifolium pratense), common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and common mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum) the only species recorded.


The northern field has a tall sward with frequent tall herbs. The most frequent grass species here are cocksfoot and false oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius). Species present in smaller quantity include timothy, creeping bent, common bent (Agrostis capillaris), red fescue (Festuca rubra), meadow barley (Hordeum secalinum) and common couch (Elytrigea repens). The most frequent herb species are creeping thistle, broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius), hogweed and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Species present in smaller quantity include teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare), creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), comfrey (Symphytum vulgare) and common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). Small patches in the north-eastern part of the field have clumps of hard rush (Juncus inflexus) and soft rush (Juncus effusus) with associated herb species including common vetch (Vicia satica) and angelica (Angelica sylvestris).


The narrow strip through which the access track would pass has tall grassland dominated by false oat-grass. Other grass species here include perennial rye-grass, cocksfoot, common bent and tall fescue. Herb species include hogweed, meadow-sweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and common sorrel (Rumex acetosa). There are several patches of cowslip ({Primula veris) in the area.


Hedges

The composition of the hedges, which are numbered on the attached map, is as follows:


Structure

Woody Species

Woody species in thirty metre length

Ground Flora

1

Tall, several immature trees

Pedunculate oak, hybrid poplar, ash, blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, dog rose, apple, buckthorn, Norway maple, bullace, English elm, pear

​Pedunculate oak,ash, blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, dog rose, English elm, pear (8 species)

Dog’s mercury, wood false-brome, red campion, giant fescue

2

Narrow, low

Hawthorn, blackthorn, ash

Hawthorn, ash (2 species)

Wood false-brome

3

Wide, tall; leggy, semi-mature trees, hedge bank

Pedunculate oak, ash, hawthorn, wild cherry (planted), hornbeam (planted)

Pedunculate oak, ash, hawthorn (3 species)

Red campion, bluebell, dog’s mercury, wood avens, sweet violet, male fern giant fescue

4

​Scrubby, gappy

Ash, crack willow, sallow, hawthorn, elder

Ash, crack willow, hawthorn (3 species)

Cuckoo-pint, red campion

5

Gappy, immature trees, small stream

Ash, hawthorn, crack willow, dog rose; at northern end spindle, blackthorn

Ash, hawthorn, crack willow, dog rose (4 species)

Red campion, wood false-brome, dog’s mercury

6

Dense, with semi-mature trees, hedge bank

Pedunculate oak, ash, field maple, blackthorn, sallow,

Pedunculate oak, ash, field maple, sallow (4 species)

Dog’s mercury, bluebell, red campion, sweet violet, greater stitchwort, wood false-brome

7

Moderately tall, dense

Hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, ash, pedunculate oak, dogwood, crab apple

Hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, pedunculate oak,crab apple (5 species)

Dog’s mercury, greater stitchwort, wood false-brome

8

Moderately tall, dense, at least in part the result of planting

Field maple, blackthorn, hawthorn, sallow, ash, silver birch

Field maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, ash (4 species)

Dog’s mercury

Birds


No birds were seen in any of the fields. The following species were recorded in the hedges:


1: Blackbird, dunnock, goldfinch, greenfinch, jackdaw, robin and song thrush.


2: Chaffinch, redwing and wren.


3: Dunnock and wood pigeon.


4: Long-tailed tit.


5: Blackbird.


6: Bullfinch, dunnock and robin.


7: Blue tit.



Invertebrates


The following were recorded:


Field 2: Long-winged conehead; Phytomyza heracleana, Pegomya solennis and Agromyza ferruginosa flies.


Field 3: Phytomyza heracleana fly.


Hedge 1: Comma butterfly; Eristalis tenax hoverfly; seven-spot ladybird; hornet; Panorpa communis scorpion-fly; Diplolepis rosae wasp; and Mesembrina meridian fly.


Hedge 3: Lyonetia clerkella, Phyllonorycter messaniella and Stigmella carpinella moths.


Hedge 5: Hornet.


Hedge 6: Vapourer moth.


Protected Species


No badger sett or other signs of badger activity were found on the site. Badgers are known to be present in the wider area.


There are trees in hedges 3 and 6 that have small holes or dense growths of ivy that could be used by roosting bats. None of the trees has any larger holes that would suggest high potential value for roosting bats.


Further details are given in the Assessment section below.


ASSESSMENT


The nature conservation value of the various habitats on the site has been assessed in order to determine whether they are of nature conservation value in a national, regional, or county context, are of either high or low value in a local context, or are of minimal nature conservation value. The assessment has used standard ecological criteria, including diversity, rarity, fragility and recreatability. Reference has been made to suitable guidance, including the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and South Gloucestershire BAPs and the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations. The value of groups not surveyed, such as most invertebrates, has been assessed using information gathered on the nature and structure of the habitats present.


The timing of the survey means that breeding birds, invertebrates and hedgerow ground flora could not be fully surveyed. This has been taken into account in assessing the site.


Habitats


The grassland in the southern field has been agriculturally improved. It supports a narrow range of species and lacks any species that are indicative of unimproved grassland, or any other BAP habitat, or are otherwise of nature conservation concern. Regular management means that the grassland here lacks any species indicative of significant interest for invertebrates. Grasslands of this type are widespread across lowland Britain and are readily re-creatable.


The grassland in this field is of minimal nature conservation value.


The grassland in the other two fields appears to have undergone a lower degree of improvement and has since been under-managed for several years. A small number of species indicative of unimproved grassland were recorded in the two fields: meadow barley in the northern field and cowslip in the narrow strip. This diversity is extremely low and indicates that the fields were improved in the past. The lack of management in these areas has allowed a tall tussocky sward, with stands of tall herb species, to develop. This vegetation is likely to be of some interest for invertebrates.


These two areas are of low nature conservation value in a local context.


The nature conservation value of the hedges varies greatly. Several hedges are diverse in both woody species and in herbaceous species associated with long-established wooded habitats is also reasonably high and spring survey would probably reveal further species. Hedges 1, 5 and 7 qualify as Important Hedges under the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations, as shown on the attached map.


These hedges are of high nature conservation value in a local context.


Some of the other hedges are less diverse but they are moderately diverse in native shrub species and also support herbaceous species associated with long-established wooded habitats.


Hedges 3 and 6 are of low nature conservation value in a local context.


The remaining hedges – 2, 4 and 8 – are of some interest, in that they provide habitat for birds and insects and they contribute to local connectivity, but they are either less diverse or are of recent origin and could be replaced by new planting.


Protected and BAP Species


Signs of badger activity were seen but no setts are present.


There are trees in hedges 1, 3 and 6 that have low to moderate potential as bat roosts on the site.


The fields are low in plant diversity and are not grazed by stock. They may be of some value for foraging bats but there are no features that suggest significant value.

The hedges are more likely to be used by foraging bats and may also provide commuting routes.


The grassland in the southern field is not suitable for reptiles due to regular agricultural management. The other two fields have taller grassland that does have some potential for reptiles. Given the history of the fields in agricultural management this potential is low, but it cannot be discounted.


There are no ponds on the survey site and the only ponds in the surrounding area are small ornamental ponds around the existing buildings. These do not appear suitable for great crested newt and are of recent origin. There are no records of great crested newt in the surrounding area.


There are no records of dormouse from the surrounding area.


There are no signs of water vole activity along the stream, which is unsuitable for this species due to heavy shading and intermittent water flow. There are no records of this species in the surrounding area.


BAP bird species such as bullfinch, dunnock and song thrush probably make use of most of the hedges on site at some time or other.


No hedgehog droppings or other signs of hedgehog activity were seen, but it is likely that they make some use of the site.


It is likely that the hedges support some of the more widespread BAP moth species, but there is nothing to suggest that they are of significant value for moths or any other group of insects.


IMPACTS


The proposals involve construction of a chapel and associated facilities in part of the southern field, with a car park in part of the northern field. Access would be via a track through the narrow field to the south-west. Significant areas of grassland would remain in all three fields. The hedges would remain largely intact, but there would be breaches to hedges 3 and 5.


Loss of part of the southern field would not have any significant adverse impact.


Loss of parts of the northern field and the narrow field to the south-west would have a minor adverse impact.


Breaches to the hedges would have a minor adverse impact.


The main potential adverse impacts on protected and BAP species involve bats. There are trees in hedge 3 that could be used by roosting bats. The fields have some potential as foraging habitats for bats, and hedges have a higher level of potential for foraging and commuting bats.


The site would not be lit, and there would therefore be no impact on bats as a result of light spillage.


If reptiles are present mitigation would be required to prevent them being killed or injured.


There would be some minor loss of badger foraging habitat.


There would potentially be an impact on hedgehogs due to habitat loss in the northern and south-western fields.


MITIGATION


The scale of the impacts associated with the loss of grassland habitat could be mitigated by retaining as much grassland as possible. In the car park use of permeable blocks that allow plant growth would allow the retention of much grassland interest in the field. Sowing species such as bird’s-foot trefoil into the blocks would create valuable habitat for invertebrates. Tall grassland should be retained around the edges of the two areas of grassland, and managed on a rotation so that invertebrate habitat is retained.


The proposed works within the southern field would allow the creation of species-rich grassland on areas from which topsoil is stripped. This would allow the creation of a less nutrient-rich substrate to which wildflowers could be introduced, either as commercially obtained seed or as green hay from a local source. Management of the grassland to create taller swards as well as more formal areas close to the buildings would maximise habitats for invertebrates and other animals.


Impacts on the hedges could be reduced by minimising the width of breaches and in particular by using existing gaps in hedge 5 to create the access here.


Retention of corridors of grassland along the hedges would probably provide mitigation for any loss of bat foraging habitat within the grasslands.


The breach in hedge 3 should be sited so that the trees here, which have the potential to support roosting bats, are retained. Retention of the trees would also minimise any impact on bats commuting along the hedge, since the upper branches would arch over the gap and a continuous corridor would be retained. Likewise, use of an existing gap in hedge 5 would avoid any impact on commuting bats here.


There are a number of measures that could be used to enhance the site for bats. These include the creation of bat roosting opportunities in buildings by designing small gaps that allow access into roof spaces. Bat boxes should be fitted to hedgerow trees. Planting new hedges parallel to existing hedges in order to create green lanes would create ideal foraging conditions for bats.


Clearance of the northern field and the narrow field should be preceded by a reptile survey. If reptiles are found they should be translocated to suitable habitat elsewhere on the site. Any receptor site would require enhancement through hibernaculum creation and modification to management regimes.


Retention of grassland habitat around the edges of the fields should ensure that badgers continue to use the area. During construction any excavations that are left open overnight should either be fenced off or provided with exit ramps in order to prevent badgers becoming trapped.


Any area of tall vegetation should be checked for hedgehogs before removal.


Any hedge, tree, bramble patch or stand of dense tall herb vegetation has the potential to support nesting birds. Such features should be removed between 1st September and 15th February. If this is not possible they should be checked immediately before removal and if occupied nests are found then delays to works would be necessary.


Further enhancement measures should include the following:

  • Timber from any trees that are felled should be stacked under hedges in order to provide habitat for invertebrates.

  • Native tree and shrub species should be planted on the site. Recommended species are rowan, other whitebeams, apple and hawthorn, all of which provide flowers attractive to invertebrates and berries attractive to birds.

  • Wildlife friendly features including shallow shelves should be incorporated into ponds.

  • Garden walls and similar features should be constructed with small gaps and crevices in order to create niches for solitary bees and other invertebrates.

  • Swift-nesting opportunities should be incorporated into buildings.

  • Ornamental planting should include nectar-rich species attractive to bumblebees and other insects. A wide range of species is suitable, but particularly valuable plants include lungwort, lavender, cotoneaster, perennial geraniums and single-flowered roses.


Rupert Higgins


Wessex Ecological Consultancy


11th November 2015

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