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Working with wildlife in the construction industry

Sarah Ive, Principal Ecologist, Temple Group and CIRIA trainer discusses the importance of dealing with wildlife issues on construction sites.

Why it’s important to consider wildlife during construction
When dealing with issues relating to wildlife on site, it’s often difficult to know what you have to do to ensure legal compliance and secure successful planning consents. Protecting wildlife can often seem like a hindrance to getting the job done, with horror stories in the news about projects coming to a complete halt due to the need to protect species such as great crested newts.  When considered early in the planning process, many of the constraints relating to wildlife can be identified and addressed early, therefore avoiding or reducing any potential time delays or cost implications.  Early engagement with wildlife protection and enhancement can also maximise the benefits we provide for wildlife which has become increasingly important with increased environmental awareness and corporate social responsibility across the sector.

Our wildlife faces increasing pressure from a range of different factors from climate change to competition with invasive species. Our actions in the construction industry also have the potential to adversely impact wildlife, through either direct harm or by impacting the long term survival of these species. In the UK there is a whole suite of legislation in place to protect our wildlife from potentially harmful activities, but these can be difficult to interpret and therefore follow correctly.  The mistake of not considering and implementing measures to protect ecology on site can be a costly one. In 2020, a new record was set in the UK for a wildlife fine when a developer was fined £600,000, and ordered to pay additional legal costs when they destroyed the roost of a protected bat species. If wildlife had been carefully considered, understood, and protected it would have been possible to avoid the associated environmental impacts of the work, the financial penalties incurred, and the damage caused to the company’s reputation.

There are also restrictions to the timing for different wildlife surveys and when mitigation and compensation to protect wildlife can be implemented. For example, surveys for reptiles can only be done in the warmer months, whereas hibernation bats can only be surveyed in the winter.  By considering ecology early in the planning process and having a good understanding of when work needs to be scheduled, this can help prevent delays gaining planning consents. 

CIRIA CPD training for Working with Wildlife on site

This CIRIA training course provides a targeted and accessible overview of how to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above and how wildlife fits into the construction process.  The training will provide you with an awareness of the many different pieces of UK and European legislation and policy, which habitats and species are protected and what measures need to be implemented to ensure legal compliance.  The training will also look at an individual’s role and responsibilities on site and how the construction industry can contribute positively to our natural environment.