In spring 2016 UES were subcontracted by Biocensus to carry out ecological surveys for the West Midlands to Crewe (Phase 2a) route of the proposed High Speed 2 rail network. The ecological surveys provide baseline data to support the HS2 Phase 2 Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA). Furthermore, an Environmental Statement will be produced including the likely significant environmental effects along the route and measures to manage and reduce these impacts.
UES carried out a series of ecological surveys between June and December 2016. The surveys were concentrated on land that fell within the proposed route, as well as a 250m buffer. UES were primarily involved in the following surveys:

Phase 1 habitat surveys – habitats within the proposed route were mapped. The information gained from the survey will be used to determine the ecological value of the site, and to direct any more specific survey work which may need to be carried out.

Bat building / tree assessments and bat activity, back tracking and emergence surveys – the surveys covered initial assessments recording potential roosting features in trees and buildings to emergence / re-entry surveys recording general bat activity and roosting positions.

Great crested newts (GCN) – ponds within the proposed route were assessed for their suitability to support GCNs using the habitat suitability index (HSI), which is an aid used to determine if GCN presence is likely and target further survey work (if required).

Hedgerows – hedgerows were assessed for their ‘ecological importance’, based on the presence of woody species, ground flora and other associated features such as ditches and the number of standard trees.

Otters / water voles – watercourses within the proposed route were inspected for field signs of otters and water voles, such as holts, burrows, latrines, feeding stations and footprints.

Badgers – badger setts and field signs of badgers, such as footprints, hairs, latrines, feeding remains, and tracks, were recorded within the proposed route as part of the phase 1 habitat surveys.

Reptiles – refugia traps were placed within suitable habitat along the proposed route to establish the presence or (likely) absence of reptiles.

UES followed the HS2 survey protocols and detailed methodology as set out by Arup to standardise the data collected. The results gathered form the baseline ecological data for Phase 2a, from which further more detailed surveys may be required in 2017 onwards. Work for Biocensus is still ongoing with bat tree assessments being undertaken in December 2016.

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