Fineshade as SSSI? ... mammals

Part 2, Chapter 13: Mammals, can be downloaded here:

 

http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-2303

 

This page draws upon this document from the Joint Nature Conservation Committeee:

 

Guidelines for the Selection of Biological SSSIs

Part 2: Detailed Guidelines for Habitats and Species Groups

Chapter 13 Mammals

 

This document, which has 14 pages, is subject to revision with the revised guidelines said to be "possibly completed by summer 2016". They were previously due to be published in Autumn 2015-Winter 2015/16. (Information received 31 March 2016).

Photo of Barbastelle Bat taken by Phil Richardson
This rare species has been recorded in Fineshade

 

Enhanced value

The introduction to this document begins by explaining some of the practical difficulties of applying site-based measures to address the conservation needs of many mammals.
Much does not apply to Fineshade (we don’t have many seals!) but:

 

  • section 1.5 deals with Otters (some records here),

  • section 1.7 deals with Badgers (widespread through the wood),

  • section 1.8 deals with the Common Dormouse (historical and recent records) and

  • section 1.9 deals with Bats (at least 6 species present).

 

All of these species are described in section 1.10 as

especially in need of conservation measures and hence the ones to be considered especially in relation to SSSI selection.

Section 3.4.1 of the guidelines lists the presence of dormice as one of the

attributes which enhance the value of sites being assessed mainly on habitat or botanical features - notably woodland and upland sites.

A similar statement about “enhancing value” is made in section 3.4.2 which specifically refers to otters and bat roosts.

 

Final Ecological Report. Proposed Holiday Lodge Site within Fineshade Woodland, near Duddington, Northamptonshire. September 2014, Version 2.

 

Application - Representation. Phil Richardson of Northants Bat Group - objection.

 

Both documents may be downloaded from here on the East Northants Council Planning website.

Northants Bat Group:   Fineshade is of at least regional importance for bats. 

Bats

 

Section 3.3 of the guidelines deals with Bats, in particular the selection of bat roosts.  Forest Holidays’ ecological surveys identified the following species in the part of Fineshade that they surveyed:  common and soprano pipistrelle, noctule, brown long-eared, barbastelle
and myotis bats
(a group of at least 4 bat species found in Northants: possibly Natterer’s, Brandt’s, or Whiskered).

 

It is important to note however that Northants Bat Group, objecting to Forest Holiday’s planning application, drew attention to the inadequacy of the surveys carried out and were very critical of the methods used. FH’s surveyors failed to identify any roost sites but did report that roosts of brown long-eared, an unidentified pipistrelle species and soprano pipistrelle had been recorded previously

 

The FH Ecological Report concluded in section 5.1:

The assemblage of bats recorded indicates that Fineshade Forest is likely to be of at least local value for roosting and foraging bats, and the presence of Myotis species and barbastelle bats suggests that the Forest may be of county value for bats. 

However the Northants Bat group, stated:

We suggest that the further surveys that should have been carried out would have shown that the level of importance is greater than this and of at least regional level importance for bats

In 2015 Forest Holidays' new ecological consultants, AECOM, were said to be carrying out bat surveys in order to meet these criticisms.  One night of heavy rain, they were seen attempting to carry out the survey. (Details here). No report of the outcome of that monitoring has been made available by AECOM, Forest Holidays or the Forestry Commission.

 

Referring back to the SSSI Guidelines it would seem that there is at present no justification for SSSI site selection on account of known breeding roosts of the rarer species of bats.

 

However, potential developers will be aware that Natural England have very strict requirements for mitigation licence applications. It is these requirements, rather than SSSI notification, that can be relied upon to protect Fineshade’s presently poorly-understood bat population.

Application - Representation.
Dr Mark Avery - objection.

 

The full document may be downloaded from here on the East Northants Council Planning website.

 

 

Dormice

 

A similar situation to that for bats can should be seen as protecting Fineshade’s dormice – their certain presence may not make SSSI notification certain, but the requirements for a mitigation licence would make any development such as that proposed by Forest Holidays an impossibility.

 

The Dormouse is a European Protected Species (EPS) and the following argument was set out by Mark Avery in his objection to the last Forest Holidays planning application.

Any plan or project which potentially affects the favourable conservation status of any EPS, has to take into account obligations set out in the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora Directive 1992 (92/43/EEC) see The Habitats Directive – Environment – European Commission for more information on this Directive (see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69622/pb13840-habitats-iropi-guide-20121211.pdf for a guidance document).

 

Any plan or project that would likely have a significant effect on the favourable conservation status of an EPS is required to pass the ‘three tests’ set out in Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive.   The three tests are sequential and all three have to be met. The first two have to be met, before you consider the third.

 

The three tests are:

 

1) there must be no feasible alternative solutions to the plan or project which are less damaging to the affected European site(s); THIS TEST IS NOT MET

 

2) there must be imperative reasons of overriding public interest for the plan or project to proceed;
THIS TEST IS NOT MET

 

3) all necessary compensatory measures must be secured to ensure that the overall coherence of the network of European sites is protected
THIS TEST IS NOT RELEVANT

Dormouse seen in September 2014

 

As Dr Avery went on to point out, Test 1 failed because the developer had no idea where Dormice occurred in the wood, so had no idea whether or not there were feasible alternative solutions to the plan. But Test 2 is the real clincher: trying to claim that there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest for creating a holiday village with 70 luxury cabins is simply ludicrous.

 

During 2015 Forest Holiday ecological consutants carried out very limited monitoring for Dormice - the results have not been published. However, a completely different and independent monitoring scheme within the wood confirmed the presence of the species when an adult female was found in September in one nest box, as well as other indicators of presence elsewhere.

 

Note: Natural England are proposing four new policies on the way in which licensing for European Protected Species is carried out. However, they take pains to point out that the new policies will only be appropriate if the 3 licensing tests are satisfied. (Public Consultation February to April 2016

Badgers

 

There are many current records of Badger activty throughout the wood, a fact acknowledged by Forest Holidays' surveyors in 2014. Again they were criticised for the inadequacy of their surveys and again it was said that new ecological consultants would be carrying out surveys in 2015. 

 

Whether or not that survey was carried out is not known but, as with their other surveys, no report of methods or results has been made available.

 

What is certain is that there is still a very active and thriving Badger population in the wood. Throughout 2016 and 2017 sett usage has been monitored by Friends of Fineshade and records of setts have been submitted to the local Badger Group, the Northants Biological Records Centre and the Forestry Commission.

 

Conclusion:

 

The presence of bats, dormice, badgers and otters enhances the value of this woodland site for SSSI notification. However, Fineshade’s bats and dormice have strong other protection than that provided by SSSI status. 

This page checked and updated February 2018

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