Sunday 22 January 2017

Wildlife warnings prove hard to swallow

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Wildlife warnings prove hard to swallow

You might think that labour shortages, the cost of materials or high land prices were the main threats to getting building work done on your home - but it turns out that a new problem has flown in: birds' nests.

A local law firm is warning that new draft planning guidelines, which are designed to help developers protect the wildlife on their building sites, actually go much too far, and may shut down large swathes of construction work during the bird nesting season, as well as delaying even minor work on the majority of local homes.

Planning and construction lawyer Claire Smith from Ogier says that the draft supplementary planning guidelines demand full surveys by qualified ecologists on any modification of a pre-1960s building in the Island. They also affect any work within 200 metres of the sea or a hedgerow or within 200 metres of a garden larger than 500 square metres.

The new guidelines also call for an ecologist's report on any work involving external lighting of a building outside the built-up area or within 50 metres of woodland.

She wants the proposed rules to be scrapped and replaced with what she thinks are more practical measures.

"These additional regulations have the potential to add delay and extra cost to almost every application, and the people I have spoken to within the industry have serious reservations about them.

"People working in the construction and development industry today respect regulations and the importance of biodiversity, but the rules as drafted go too far, and will in many cases add entirely unnecessary delay and expense.

"While there needs to be some formal framework setting out when biodiversity surveys by ecologists are necessary, the proposals distributed should be withdrawn and replaced with a more practical and risk-based set of rules."

But Peter Le Gresley, Director of Development Control at the Department of the Environment, said he was surprised by the response from Ogier’s to the deartment's initiative.

"The recent Environment in Figures report highlighted that a number of important species are under threat in Jersey. One common cause for concern is the impact on wildlife during construction projects.  The Island Plan already contains policies which are designed to protect species during such projects.

"Currently, the assessment of whether a site is home to vulnerable species is carried out fairly late in the day, during the consideration of a planning application.  Developers have asked us to devise a process where this issue can be examined earlier, so as to avoid delays in the planning application process.  The (draft) checklist does just that – it prompts customers to self-check their building sites for the presence of wildlife, so that they can take informed decisions at an earlier stage in the building process.    In particular, it will help developers to avoid, or mitigate, any impact of their proposal on wildlife.

"The checklist should improve the current position. Only where the presence of important wildlife is suspected will more detailed work be required.  Far from delaying projects, this initiative brings biodiversity issues further up the agenda for developers, so that they can plan appropriately in advance.

"Along with the UK, Jersey must deliver against the same international environmental requirements. It must be remembered that the island’s natural environment is a finite resource – as well as one of its strongest assets.  This was recently confirmed by the strong messages sent by Islanders within their responses to the Shaping Our Future consultation.

"The document is still in draft and, as ever, the department will continue to work with customers to develop our services to meet their needs."







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