UES were commissioned for an extended phase 1 habitat survey of a site north of Porthmadog. The desk study and record search revealed no records on the site, but did have several records of Lesser horseshoe bats within 1km of the site boundary.
The site itself both from the record search and from aerial photography looked fairly unremarkable as it was in a packet of land between a busy road and a railway line and had two distinct habitat types. The western end of site was high ground with lots of exposed rock. The variety of flora present suggested it was a species rich grassland as did the numerous ant mounds made by yellow meadow ants (lasius flavus). Several bird species were heard and seen around the site area including Wheatear, Grasshopper warbler and willow warbler. The eastern half of the site was marshy grassland dominated by soft rush, with an artificial drainage channel cutting through it from north to south. There were no rocks or raised areas in the watercourse and it was very smooth and uniform on the bottom suggesting that it had been quite recently cleared. The water was around 1m deep and running slowly from south to north. Toby checked the watercourse for signs of watervole and was surprised to find several latrines and burrows along the banks of the drain. The sites were recorded with GPS references and photographs. The CCW (Countryside Council for Wales) and local record centre (COFNOD) were notified as was the developer. The water vole is now fully protected under Section 9 of The Wildlife and Countryside act 1981 (as amended) which makes illegal any action which might
Intentionally kill, injure or take water voles
possess or control live or dead water voles or their derivatives
Intentionally or recklessly damage destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place used by water voles
The developer was initially annoyed because of the affect the find would have on the project. But realised that the survey which had taken place very early in the planning stages of the development, had saved the company money in the long run.
The early survey had allowed them to properly assess the cost of the development before the start of work, rather than finding the water voles mid-project, and having to stop work redesign the plans and potentially have damaged or destroyed the habitat of a species which is already in serious decline.