This report addresses condition 3 of the consent for the above scheme includes the following condition: “Prior to the commencement of the development an ecological and landscape management plan shall be submitted to and agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority. (For the avoidance of doubt the management plan shall include the recommendations made in the ecological survey by Wessex Ecological Consultancy dated November 2012). The development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details.”
The current proposals involve the extension of the existing cemetery over a larger part of the farm. The extension area will largely be used for woodland burials, with smaller areas used for meadow burials. Existing features such as hedges and small streams will be retained within the site. There will be minor improvements to access routes through the site. These will utilise existing field gates.
The site was described in the Ecological Report produced in November 2012; small amounts of survey work have been carried out subsequently. It consists largely of species-poor agricultural grassland, with smaller areas of moderately diverse grassland. One of these supports a small population of the locally uncommon greater burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis). The fields are separated by a network of hedges, most of which are moderately diverse in woody species and qualify as Important Hedgerows under the Hedgerow Regulations. The hedges support good populations of widespread bird species; no field nesting species have been recorded. The only protected species recorded is badger, but it is assumed that bats use the site, in particular the hedges, for foraging.
Implementation of the plan will be the responsibility of Memorial Woodlands. Management will in general follow the pattern established in fifteen years of operation as a burial ground, with the exception that a series of meadow burial areas will be established. There is necessarily some uncertainty regarding timescales, since new areas will be incorporated into the burial ground as demand dictates, probably over approximately 20 years. Fields will remain under agricultural management (as described below) until they are required for burials.
2. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
To ensure that the biodiversity interest of the site and of adjacent areas is protected during any works associated with its use as a burial ground.
To ensure that the biodiversity interest of the site is maintained and enhanced as far as possible within the constraints of its operation as a burial ground.
To ensure that the landscape value of the site is maintained within the constraints of its operation as a burial ground.
To prevent harm to habitats and species of conservation importance during site operations.
To ensure that the biodiversity interest of the grasslands is maintained and enhanced.
To create areas of mixed woodland, enhancing the biodiversity, landscape and amenity value of the site.
To ensure that the biodiversity and landscape value of hedges is maintained.
To create wetland habitat on the site.
3. MANAGEMENT PRESCRIPTIONS
Objective 1: To prevent harm to habitats and species of conservation importance during site operations.
1.1: Any tree and shrub removal will take place during the period 1st September to 1st March; if this is not possible then areas to be cleared will be checked by an ecologist immediately before works commence. If occupied nests are found then the surrounding area, as identified by the ecologist, will be left undisturbed until a further check finds the area to be free of occupied birds’ nests.
1.2: Any areas of dense cover, including bramble, to be removed will be checked by an ecologist for hedgehogs and other wildlife. Any animals found will be removed safely to an area of cover outside the working area.
1.3: If any excavation is proposed within 20m of a badger sett the advice of an ecologist will be sought and followed. Any open pipe-work of internal diameter greater than 150mm will be sealed at the end of each working day. Any open trenches or pits will be either:
a) filled at the end of each working day;
b) fitted with a scaffold plank escape ramp (running at an angle of no greater than 45o from the base of the pit/trench to its lip); or
c) covered over with a solid cap or heavy-gauge metal mesh sheeting, weighted down such as to be unmoveable by badgers;
Objective 2: To ensure that the biodiversity interest of the grasslands is maintained and enhanced.
Until they are brought into use as part of the burial grounds the fields will remain in agricultural management.
2.1: No fertilisers or herbicides will be used on any area of grassland.
2.2: Agricultural management will comprise summer grazing with either sheep or cattle.
2.3: Fields that cannot be grazed, due to absence of fencing or other problems, will be cut for hay or for silage.
As the fields are incorporated into the burial ground they will be used for either woodland or meadow burials. The management of fields used for woodland burials is dealt with under Objective 3 below. Two fields will be used for meadow burials, which will involve progressively creating a ridge and furrow type structure in the fields, with low mounds separated by furrows that incorporate drainage. Ecological gain will be maximised by using nutrient-poor subsoils as the dominant growth medium; these will be sown with an appropriate meadow mix, at a lower than usual density to allow herb species present on the site to colonise naturally. The creation of the ridge and furrow system will diversify the range of micro-habitats in the fields, which will benefit invertebrates in particular.
The fields will be brought into use gradually over a period of several years. The development of species-rich grassland will therefore be reviewed and the prescriptions altered as appropriate. The Local Authority will be informed of any changes.
2.4: A ridge and furrow system will gradually be created in the meadows. Mounds will be approximately 400mm in height and will be formed of sub-soil from the fields and sown with Emorsgate Basic Meadow Mix EM1 at a rate of 2g per m2. The surface will be prepared for sowing by raking or harrowing, as appropriate. Sowing will, if possible, be carried out during the periods March to April or September to October; sowing will not be attempted during the period November to February when growth is unlikely.
2.5: The meadow areas will be left to grow tall between April and July. They will then be cut for hay in late July, with the arisings gathered and removed. They will subsequently be mown between July and September if regrowth is strong.
2.6: The development of the meadows will be monitored and creation and management techniques adapted as appropriate. South Gloucestershire Council will be informed of any proposed changes.
Objective 3: To create areas of mixed woodland, enhancing the biodiversity, landscape and amenity value of the site.
The details of creation and management of the woodland areas are described in the Schedule for Establishment of New Planting (SLR 2743/01 revision 6) and the Plant Schedule (SLR 170920-416-04630-0011) as submitted in connection with applications PT17/2373/RVC and DOC17/0216.
3.1: Plot holders will select a tree from a list of native species to be planted on their plot. Experience on the site to date has shown protection against rabbits and deer to be unnecessary; tree shelters will be provided if grazing damage becomes problematic. Trees will be attached to a softwood stake between 50mm and 75mm diameter. Trees will be attached to stakes by a single tie, ensuring that the tree and stake do not touch. Following planting an area of 1m radius around the tree will be kept weed free, without the use of herbicides; stakes will be kept firmly in position; and ties will be loosened as necessary. All failed and damaged planting will be replaced. At the end of five years ties and stakes will be removed.
3.2: Orchard areas, dominated by apple trees, will be established, initially in the southern part of field A1.
3.3: In the long term the woodland areas will be managed to create a mixture of high woodland, coppiced areas and glades. It is likely that some tree thinning will be necessary to create an optimal structure, but none is envisaged within the lifetime of this plan.
3.4: Within woodland burial areas grass will be mown to maintain a sward height of approximately 50mm. Plot owners will be allowed to mow the grass within their plot to a lower height if they wish.
3.5: A strip of grassland 2m wide along hedgerow edges will be left to grow tall and will be mown once annually in September.
Objective 4: To ensure that the biodiversity and landscape value of hedges is maintained.
4.1: In general hedges will be allowed to grow tall in order to contribute to the woodland habitats on the site and a central line of tall tree and shrub growth will be retained along the centre of each hedge. The outer parts of the hedges will be cut low to maintain continuity as a hedge and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
4.2: Hedges will be encouraged to spread out into adjacent field by up to three metres. As fields are brought into use a three metre strip alongside each hedgerow will be planted with bare-rooted whips between 40-60cm high, planted at 75cm intervals in rows 30cm apart. Appropriate weed control will be carried out before and after planting. Protection against animals will be incorporated if monitoring shows this to be necessary. Failed and damaged planting will be replaced during the first five years after planting.
The following species mix will be used:
Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea): 15%
Hazel (Corylus avellana): 35%
Wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare): 5%
Holly (Ilex aquifolium): 20%
Dog rose (Rosa canina): 5%
Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus): 20%
This band of growth will then be cut to a height of between 2.5 and 3 metres every three years, on a rotation so that different stretches of hedge are cut each year. Cutting will be carried out in early February.
4.3: Where hedges become gappy as a result of this regime they will be gapped up with whips of native shrub species. Hedges alongside Earthcott Road and Shellards Lane will be cut every two years to a height of between 2.5m and 3.5m, with the exception of any standard trees in the hedge.
4.4: As each field comes into operation two bat boxes and two bird boxes will be fitted to trees in hedges around the field. Boxes will be at a minimum height of three metres; bird boxes will face north and bat boxes will face south.
4.5: If it is necessary to fell any trees, for instance because they die and become unsafe, the timber will be retained in sections as long as possible and stacked in hedge bottoms as habitat piles.
4.6: There are several ditches, which are an essential part of the site drainage system and provide wildlife habitat, running alongside or below hedges. The banks of the ditches will be strimmed where necessary and cleared of any blockages.
Objective 5: To create wetland habitat on the site.
5.1: A pond will be created in each field as it is brought into use for burials. Ponds will be lined with puddle clay if possible; if clay is insufficient to form an impermeable base a butyl liner will be used.
5.2: The ponds will have a minimum surface area of 6m2.
5.3: Shelves between 0.5 and 1m deep will be created around the edges of ponds.
5.4: Vegetation in the ponds will be allowed to develop by natural colonisation. Ponds will not be stocked with fish.
5.5: If ponds become overgrown then 75% of vegetation will be removed in October, leaving the remaining 25% as a refuge zone.