Tiny Amphibians Hold up 12 Tonne Drilling Rigs

by Heather Peebles

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

ecology at glenboigEcologist Russell Goodchild lays claim to one of the strangest jobs in Scottish construction – crawling on his hands and knees in front of 12 tonne drilling rigs.

He has been called in by Banks Property to painstakingly search a site for protected great crested newts, so that the huge machines can move forward inch-by-inch.

Patient workmen can only watch while newt expert Russell gets on his hands and knees to carefully search through the grass and the rest of the site inspection area for signs of the rare amphibians, before allowing the vehicles to edge forward.

When he does find signs of the tiny creatures he orders the huge vehicles to change direction, before repeating the process along the new route.

The ecological investigation is just one of the environmental tasks undertaken by Hamilton-based Banks Property following a year-long study of the proposed site for more than 1000 new homes at Glenboig, North Lanarkshire.

Russell, a consultant ecologist for Heritage Environmental Ltd (HEL), admits the inspection process is slow, but vital to the future of the protected species that are known to breed in the area. In addition, given the newts’ protected status, it ensures that all works are legally compliant.

He said: “Although our year long survey of the area confirmed a negligible risk of great crested newts being present, we have to ensure the correct procedures are followed, which in this investigation area involves me getting down on my knees to perform a fingertip search for newts throughout the working area.

“If there is no sign I allow the vehicles to move forward and if there are newts there, I investigate a different route to send them on.

“The great crested newts grow to a maximum of about 15 cm, are black and extremely good at hiding, therefore very careful searching is required. We’re making good progress though and it’s vital to take these steps for such a rare and legally protected species.”

The newts breed at the nearby Gartcosh Local Nature Reserve and the population has been studied over a number of years. However, before submitting plans for the 1040 home site near the Gartcosh Business Exchange, Banks engaged HEL to undertake a further detailed survey and assessment of the population’s use of the proposed site in order to develop a species protection plan to ensure their long term survival.

Russell expects his tricky inspection work to take around three weeks, by which time the newt-free routes in and out of the area would have allowed the site investigation works to have been safely completed.

He added: “Great crested newts have been subject to significant habitat loss since WWII when there was a huge amount of change in how land was used, which is why they are now protected by European and UK legislation.

“The sort of measures Banks are taking to ensure the building work does not affect the newt population in the area are absolutely vital and it is a measure of Banks’ commitment to environmental matters.”

The newt investigation work is the latest in a list of environmentally friendly proposals by Banks Property at the Glenboig site.

Colin Anderson, Director at Banks Property, said: “Throughout this process we have listened to extensive feedback and shaped plans that are the best possible fit for the setting and sympathetic to the local environment

“We are pleased to be doing our bit to safeguard such an important pocket of rare wildlife, including manual investigations of construction routes as well as developing long term mitigation measures and habitat compensation.

“What is particularly pleasing is the possibility that the changes proposed could actually encourage the great crested newts to thrive in other parts of North Lanarkshire.”

The 1040 homes earmarked for Glenboig are part of a Community Growth Area identified by local planners and the Scottish Government. In total it could see up to 3000 properties created by a number of developers, delivering 2600 constructions jobs and an estimated £1 billion boost to the region.

Banks Property has carried out extensive consultation with local people who have supported the plans as they will be a boost for the community, which has suffered historically from loss of mining and fire clay works.

Banks Property is part of the Banks Group (www.banksgroup.co.uk), a family firm founded in 1976, which now employs 420 people in the property, renewable energy and mining sectors.

It develops land for commercial and residential property development and is committed to creating sustainable communities where people want to live and work, developing sites ranging from less than an acre to more than 300 acres.

 

Private: Heather Peebles

Based as a PR in Edinburgh, Heather Peebles is a highly-valued member of the team at Holyrood Partnership. Her work with the Scottish public relations consultancy sees her advising clients in healthcare, construction, renewables and logistics. As well as delivering numerous successful PR campaigns, she is also experienced in crisis PR and reputation management.

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