RammSanderson Ecology Ltd was commissioned by Bridgeway Consulting who were working for Network Rail to assess the potential ecological impacts and support proposals for the construction of a £15m project which involved the expansion of an existing railway station to create a park and ride facility. The proposed development would include additional platforms, a car park and a pedestrian crossing in Horden, County Durham.
The objective of our work was to identify the major habitats on and adjacent to the site, the potential for legally protected species to be present, identify the potential impact on the areas Zone of Influence (ZoI) and provide advice on impact mitigation. This included the need for further species surveys and biodiversity enhancement measures where necessary.
The proposed development was located adjacent to an area classified as “European Special Area of Conservation” therefore, in order for the construction process to begin it was imperative that the impartial ecological impact assessment report we submitted demonstrated that there would be no significant impact on those sites proposed for development.
The habitats on site were found to be generally species poor and of widespread distribution. RammSanderson recommended that the implementation of additional native planting would benefit local flora and fauna through the improvement of ecological corridors. Additional enhancements recommended within the development included the incorporation of bat and bird nesting boxes, situated on the station building and/pedestrian walkways or on retained trees.
Although the site was not considered to provide any suitable roosting habitat, we recommended a bat sensitive lighting scheme should be implemented to avoid excess light spill on adjacent habitats.
Other recommendations included;
- Install lamps with the lowest permissible density
- Install lamps with the shortest permissible column height;
- Lamps should be fitted with light spill accessories directing light to the road, platform and station and avoiding upward spill and spill onto the neighbouring planted/retained trees/ scrub or the railway
- A 10m buffer between lit areas and the periphery scrub habitats was recommended to maintain a dark corridor
- Use of low intensity bulbs to minimise light intensity
- The use of timers and dimmers to avoid lighting areas of the Site all night
Great Crested Newts
During our surveys we identified three ponds with the potential to support great crested newts within 500m of the site. Only one pond however was found to have potential for breeding great crested newts. As such, we recommended further great crested newt surveys need to be carried. This would involve a maximum of six visits between mid-March and mid-June with at least two visits in the peak season (mid-April to mid- May).
Due to the fact we confirmed the potential presence of great crested newts in the locality, we deemed it necessary to obtain a European Protected Species Licence from Natural England to prevent any delays and minimise project risk.
Red and amber list ‘birds of conservation concern’ were recorded on site during breeding bird surveys. Due to the abundance of suitable breeding habitat in the locality and low numbers of bird pairs recorded, we found the proposed development works were unlikely to affect the conservation status of these species.
RammSanderson also proposed that if any vegetation clearance or tree pruning was required, the works should be completed outside of the bird nesting season. (March to September)
Further to this, a nesting bird check should be undertaken before any works commence. If nesting birds are identified, we stressed that the nest should be protected from disturbance until the young have fledged.
Badgers and Other Notable Fauna
No signs of badger activity were recorded within 50m of the site. However, the vegetation located on the railway cutting side was very dense during our survey and there we highlighted the very low possibility that an undetected sett on could be present. We, therefore, recommended a precautionary method of works for vegetation removal for when development works started.
The advice that RammSanderson provided on this project undoubtedly helped the development to avoid EU fines for non-compliance, which could have set the development back hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Our assessments and advice demonstrated that the development would not have a detrimental impact on the area as long as our recommendations were followed. The scheme was sanctioned by the local authority, Natural England and Network Rail. Our advice saved time and money for all partners and fast tracked the start of works by several months.
In July 2020 the Horden Railway Station was officially opened. It is hoped the station will benefit over 70,000 people and open up significant opportunities for communities across east Durham, by providing a direct transport link to Teesside, Wearside and Tyneside.
“I would single out Horden New Station in particular where your hard work and diligence were key in the continuation of the schemes. The scope as specified was open to a lot of interpretation, through careful stakeholder management RS clarified what was required on our behalf and brought all parties to a clear understanding. As the scheme progressed and different areas were identified along with differing requirements RS evolved the scope and ensured the project goals were met. Their diligence on the project meant all parties were on board with what was required. The projects are currently under construction within the parameters set down by RS reports and recommendations sanctioned by Natural England and Network Rail. Throughout the process communication was second to none and some very tight project timescales met to ensure the design and build tender could be let on time. I hope the above clarifies Bridgeways position and may I take the opportunity to thank you for your continued professionalism and guidance on our works and I look forward to working with you on future schemes”
Bridgeway Consulting, Mark