The Thames Estuary is home to some amazing plants, animals and habitats, and many of them are protected by law. Knowing exactly where they are is vital to making sure we protect them.
Ecological surveys of the landscape around the scheme development will provide us with vital information about the environment, including the location and abundance of notable or rare species and those protected by law. We can then develop measures to protect these species, either through moving them to a new habitat or through mitigating the impact of the project in certain areas.
A detailed assessment of the potential impacts of the project and evaluation of all ecological features will be reported in our Environmental Statement to inform the Planning Inspectorate when considering our DCO application.
Since the preferred route announcement in April 2017, we have been carrying out a number of surveys including:
- Great Crested Newts – We are undertaking a series of non-intrusive habitat assessment surveys of ponds and water bodies in local areas to assess the suitability of ponds for Great Crested Newts.
- Birds – Our bird surveys of the Thames Estuary have been in progress since April 2017. Specialist bird surveyors will also conduct breeding bird surveys in spring 2018. They will take a series of strategic transect walks at dawn along the route, and repeat these three times during the breeding season. A survey of buildings and trees that may support breeding barn owls will also be required.
- Vegetation – Last year, our surveyors identified and recorded plant species, habitat types and areas of key interest across many areas near the route. We are returning to the key areas of interest this spring and early summer to assess the variation and number of species present at different times of the year to establish the botanical value of these sites.
- Bats – During the day, we inspect trees and buildings for their bat roost potential. We also assess whether bats forage on farmland during the night. The monitoring itself takes place during dusk and dawn from May to September and involves ecologists watching for bats moving to and from buildings and trees. In addition, we will be investigating key linear features like hedgerows that the route may cross, to understand which are the most important for foraging and commuting bats.
- Rare invertebrates – Some areas of habitat along the route are known to support a rich assortment of invertebrates. We will carry out surveys during the day to assess the importance of these invertebrates in the area, including on several local wildlife sites.
- Dormice – Dormice are nocturnal mammals that live in woodlands and hedgerows. They forage on flowers, fruit and insects and hibernate in the winter when food is scarce. Our surveys involve installing and monitoring nest tubes in hedgerows and woodlands and then looking for signs of dormice nests.
For more information on surveys and the environment, visit the ‘Our approach’ page or sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date on the project.
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