The role of the ecological clerk of works

20th November 2012

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  • Natural resources



Joe Deimel from LUC discusses ecological protection activities carried out by the ecological clerk of works on the Clyde Wind Farm development

Planning permission for Clyde Wind Farm, a 152 turbine development in South Lanarkshire, was granted in July 2008 following an extensive environmental impact assessment (EIA) process carried out by LUC. The wind farm was officially opened in September 2012 by Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond.

A number of planning conditions were set which required implementation of ecological mitigation proposals made in the environmental statement (ES) and supporting documents. To help ensure this was accomplished, LUC provided ecological clerk of works (ECoW) services in supervising and monitoring ecological mitigation during construction.

Habitats at the wind farm site include blanket bog; dry and wet dwarf shrub heath; and unimproved acid grassland. Protected species include otter, badger, mountain hare and red squirrel.

Planning conditions for the project allowed for a 50 metre micro-siting zone around the agreed footprint. From the start of development the ECoW made use of this siting flexibility to suggest route alterations away from key habitat areas. Resolution of protected species issues on site proved to be relatively straightforward, largely achieved through establishment of buffer zones around shelter locations. This task was aided by the surveys undertaken as part of the EIA and at pre-construction stage.

The overarching goal of the ECoW was to translate mitigation requirements written in the ES into practical measures on the ground. Given the complexity and scale of the project, this could only be achieved through the management of positive communication between the various parties on site.

Under planning conditions for the wind farm, the ECoW held responsibility for coordinating ecological and environmental monitoring and protection activities carried out by the project developer (SSE Renewables), the contractors, environmental consultants specialising in peat management and water quality, and drainage designers.

Over the course of the construction at Clyde there have been five principal contractors, each employing a number of engineering subcontractors: at the peak of construction works approximately 400 personnel were working on site.

This created a challenge for the ECoW to ensure that all staff were fully aware of the environmental sensitivities of the site and their responsibilities. At times of high construction activity and works in sensitive areas, two ECoWs were present on site to manage the workload and to ensure effective communication.

To coordinate responses to environmental concerns, a number of technical reporting mechanisms were set up to allow for comments or objections to be collated and resolved in an efficient manner. These included technical queries (TQs) and temporary works approval requests (TWARs) through which the principal contractors provided details of additional or amended work proposals. TQs and TWARs were issued to the ECoW and other project environmental specialists, to enable comments and environmental requirements to be collated.

In addition to this, the ECoW chaired fortnightly environmental and ecological protection group meetings, attended by SSE Renewables, planning monitoring officers, and site environmental specialists. These meetings proved to be a important tool in ensuring that information was disseminated successfully around the project team, providing a forum for open discussion of environmental problems arising on site and enabling common goals to be agreed.

The regularity of the meetings enabled issues arising on site to be rapidly addressed by gathering all interested parties together in one room at one time, not an easy feat on a project of this scale.

The ECoW services provided at Clyde Wind Farm are a good example of the challenges faced by ecologists when enacting ES mitigation proposals on large scale wind farms.

At Clyde Wind farm the complex terrain provided both environmental and engineering challenges with the key concern centred on drainage and the provision of effective control of silty run-off.

While ecologists may be well trained in protected species surveys and the recognition of sensitive habitats, these concerns highlighted the need for ECoWs to have a working understanding of wider environmental issues and the construction/engineering process.

The early establishment of open lines of communication and close collaborative working with the SSE Renewables site team, principal contractors and other parties has been crucial to the success of the ECoW role at Clyde Wind Farm.

This approach has enabled the effective protection of the site’s ecological value during the construction phase.

This article was written as a contribution to the EIA Quality Mark’s commitment to improving EIA practice

Joe Deimel is an Ecologist at LUC. He is a full member of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, and a member of the Association of Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Works.


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