Project Background

BSR Energy, a subsidiary of British Solar Renewables, wants to transform 63 hectares of land off Fambridge Road in Rochford, UK, into a solar farm capable of generating 49 MW of solar photovoltaic energy. The proposed solar park will produce enough clean, renewable electricity to power 12,500 homes, thus helping the UK with its transition to carbon-free travel and heating.

ADAS Environment conducted a preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) to determine the baseline ecological conditions for the proposed site in south Essex. This was followed by protected species surveys.

Case Study: Fambridge solar park preliminary ecological appraisal

Actions taken

The PEA identified potential further constraints, so we carried out surveys for

  • great crested newts and other amphibious species in ponds located on the boundary of the site
  • migrant wintering birds that could use the arable fields during winter because of the site’s proximity to designated wintering bird sites
  • water voles that, potentially, had burrows in the existing ditches and drains along the arable field margins.

Results

Our wintering bird survey results suggested that the migrant bird populations were not using the site as an area to rest and forage at high tide. We dismissed this ecological constraint, thereby enabling BSR Energy to avoid the time and financial impacts it would have had on the proposed development. Similarly, we eliminated water voles as an ecological constraint, as we did not encounter any on or near the site, thus further ensuring no disruption to the design or operation of the development. Combined, our surveys have helped to propel the installation plans to a practical, working outcome.

The ADAS Environment PEA outcomes not only outlined what needed to be done to minimise any potential harm to protected species but also provided a platform for how the client should achieve biodiversity net gain from the given baseline.

To deliver Rochford District Council’s development management policy, which pertains to retaining trees, woodland and other important landscape features, we advised implementing green infrastructure planting. This will help support species associated with the site and enhance its biodiversity, thereby helping to achieve a net gain in biodiversity, as outlined in the policy.