Intern chosen as a case study candidate for the Santander Internship Programme

DSCF1272Great news! Our current intern who has been working at Northern Planners for the past few months has been chosen as a case study candidate for the Santander Universities Internship Programme. Following a successful internship at Northern Planners Sophie was asked to provide a press release for the media team at Santander on her experiences working with us. Interested in the programme how the internship has benefitted us? see a copy of the press release in the link! Northern Planners Internship Case Study

Owls need better homes than York House

IMG_9626An unexpected recent event at our offices in Knaresborough prompted me to think about owls. We had a Tawny Owl Strix aluco fall down our chimney and end up bemused in a ground-floor office. After much gentle coaxing the animal was released unharmed. However, it highlighted the (low) potential risk of this happening elsewhere. The tawny Owl has a particular preference for nesting in ‘chimneys’, and the classic recommended nest box design for this species is called just that. These are normally strapped to the underside of a tree branch that is at an angle of approximately 45°. This stops too much rain getting in and allows both parent and young to scramble up to the top to get out.

At this time of year adults will be investigating possible nest sites and that is where our animal made a big mistake in dropping into our chimney expecting it to be relatively shallow and a good choice for nesting. Only to carry on falling to the hearth below.

Jackdaws are also likely species to use chimneys. If this becomes a persistent problem, then a bird guard should be fitted to the chimney pot to stop birds getting in.

owl house

Image from The Welsh Owl And Wildlife Sanctuary

Now (Feb/March) is the ideal time to set up any nest boxes or bat roost boxes you plan. Also, clean out any boxes you may have already. Most birds do not re-nest in a nest previously used by either themselves or another species. This reduces disease and parasite carry-over from one brood to the next.

Also, consider installing bird cams to your boxes to enjoy watching the animals if they use your boxes this year. You can buy ready prepared boxes or kits to install your own. Some are wired, but others can be installed up to 50m away and use wireless technology to show the images on your computer.

Give our breeding birds a bit more choice of housing this year and take care not to let birds drop in unannounced!

Barry Wright – Senior Ecologist – Northern Planners

Do you know which animal species are protected by European legislation in the UK?

Bats – there are a number of species of Bats that are present in the UK and they are all protected. The most common Bat in the UK is the Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus).


Butterflies – We have all heard recently how the changes in the weather are causing problems for butterfly species in the UK but there is only one species that is protected under European legislation. This is the Large Blue (Maculinea arion), and what a magnificent animal it is. 


Wild Cat (Felix silvestris) – One of the UKs most endangered species with population estimates of approximately 400 pure Wild Cat individuals left in the wild. Their strong hold in Northern Scotland. The largest threat to the Wild Cat is continued hybridisation with the domestic cat.


Cetacea – this group covers all Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. There are a fair few species that frequent UK waters but the most common include the Harbour Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphins, Common Dolphin and the Minke Whale.


Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) – Also called the Hazel Dormouse due to its love of Hazelnuts as a food source. These cute little animals live predominantly in the south of England and Wales so you will struggle to see one up here in Yorkshire. 


Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) – This is Britain’s only egg laying lizard which makes its home on heaths and sand dunes. The males of this species turn bright green during the breeding season making them much easier to see. 


Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) – Great Crested Newts are one of the most famous European protected speices in the UK. This is because the conditions in the UK are very good for the newts and they have developed a strong hold in the UK. Their yellow belly with black spots is very distinctive.


Common Otter (Lutra lutra) – This mammal is excellently adapted to spending time in the water with very thick fur for insulation and webbed feet and a strong tail to aid with swimming. The numbers of these species are slowly increasing in the UK. 


Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) – one of 3 species of snake that inhabit the UK. The smooth snake is the rarest of the 3 but thankfully it isn’t venomous!


Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) – sturgeon used to be common in UK waters but are now rarely found. They are similar to salmon in that they use both freshwater and marine environments, only returning to freshwater habitats to spawn. 


Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita) – I think this animal gets the award for the ugliest protected species in the UK. What do you think?


Marine Turtles – All marine turtles are protected but the one you are most likely to see from the UK is the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea). The Marine Conservation Society want to record all the UK sightings of Leatherbacks so if you see one please add it to their sightings register.

marine turtles

All of these animals are amazing in their own way. Let us know which is your favourite!


Seminar Announcement – Planning Growth for the Future

Our Planner, Mick Mcloughlin will be speakinmorning delegates confirmationg next week at a seminar in Leeds all about ‘Planning Growth for the Future’. He will be sharing the platform with Kate Barker OBE, the author of the famous Housing Supply Report. In particular, Mick will be talking about planning skills and the changing requirements of employers. His talk will be based on research he carried out for the Higher Education Academy and Leeds Metropolitan University in 2012.

Planning Permission Granted!!

CONGRATULATIONS to our Senior Planner Mick McLoughlin for successfully gaining consent for the erection of 7 new dwellings (with parking spaces) on Cold Bath Road, Harrogate. Learn more about the scheme here:

Advances in Ultrasonic Bat Detectors

The long-awaited Echo Meter Touch from the American company Wildlife Acoustics should be in this country in time for the 2014 ‘Bat’ season.

Unlike other detectors this system is not a self-contained unit. It is just an ultrasonic microphone that plugs into the Lightning socket on a modern iPhone (iPhone 5), iPad mini or a newer iPad with the Lightning connector. The clever stuff is all done by the software in device the microphones are plugged into.

The new features this system offers are live graphical ‘sonograms’ of the bat calls and the ability to use Wildlife Acoustics ‘voice recognition’ software to identify the species of bat. This is not perfected at present as we have a number of species in the UK that have very similar calls (the genus Myotis) and Wildlife Acoustics are still accumulating recordings that they can develop into signatures for this difficult group. But the promise is there and at least some of the guess-work has been eliminated from the difficult tasks of identifying the species of bat present at a site.

The Echo Meter Touch also used the built-in GPS function of the cellular-enabled Apple devices to log where the calls were made as well as when. This is useful for transect surveys where a route is walked to determine activity in a survey area e.g., the area around a wind turbine or along a proposed road alignment.

Recordings can also be made and other analysis done using additional software. Such records can be used as evidence to accompany a report to clients for use at a public inquiry. There is already a move in Northern Ireland to require submission of a minimum of 2hrs of sound recordings with bat reports in support of planning applications.

This new development is not the answer to all bat survey requirements as there will still be a need for other methods to be employed. For example potential wind farm sites may need remote detectors to be in place and recording for 5 or more nights at a time to monitor bat activity close to turbine locations.

Using a single microphone to gauge activity has an in-build limitation of not knowing if ten calls were ten bats or one bat ten times or which way the bat(s) was / were flying. A unique system developed by myself, called BATPODs uses two detectors and, with careful analysis, can eliminate much of this uncertainty and can potentially count the number of bats active in the area. It is also valuable in determining the direction bats are moving along hedgerows for example. The landscape use by bats may be requested as part of a planning statement to assure the decision makers that a development will not have a significant adverse impact on the conservation status of the local bat populations.

The range of technology available now and the way in which it can be applied means that Northern Planners can tailor bat surveys that are both cost-effective and fit for purpose.

Barry Wright BSc (Hons) MCIEEM