In Wildscapes’ ideal world, a client would arrive with a site they wanted to develop.
Wildscapes’ ecologists would go in, survey the site and draw up sustainable biodiversity and management plans.
Its landscape architecture department would produce a design, taking the ecology into account and Wildscape’s land management arm would carry out the work and keep it maintained.
Unfortunately, developers often arrive when they discover they have a problem – particularly with bats.
“People baulk at the cost of a bat survey, but, if work has to stop and you have to go back to the original drawings and put a bat roost in, it costs a lot more,” says Vicky Smith.
Of course, bats aren’t the only potential eco-problem a developer can face – and there are different times of year when surveys can ideally be carried out for different protected species.
However, if you get your timing right, you can avoid delays.
“A good ecologist will help you to continue work by developing a good plan to mitigate the problems with protected species that you could be facing,” says Wildscapes’ consultant ecologist and “bat geek” Nick White, who worked on a diverse range of projects including motorway widening schemes, wind farms and pipeline developments before joining Wildscapes last year.
There are also good reasons to keep surveys up to date, even if the land owner doesn’t plan to start developing in the near future.
“Nature is always going to come and it is better to know what you have got and be prepared to deal with it,” says Vicky Smith.
“Land value is important and, if it gets surveyed every year and you have got mitigation plans in the back of your heads, you will be able to develop when you want to.”
Demand for Wildscapes’ architectural services has been such that the firm has expanded its landscape architecture department.
“Any developer – whether they are creating housing or industrial estates – will find local authority planners are increasingly specifying it has to have an area of green space,” says Vicky Smith.
“Typically that is a big circle of grass with some trees around the edge. We pitch ourselves as being more creative, so that people come to really value that green space and it increases the value of the property.
“We will integrate hedgerows to encourage wild life, so that people start to see different birds and the odd hedgehog.”
Wildscapes’ land management team has been involved in a series of prestigious and high profile projects ranging from moorland and woodland conservation.
It’s a tough, physical job, which effectively requires construction workers with degree level skills and abilities beyond the usual landscape gardener.
“They have got degrees in practical conservation and they have got the skills to do everything from creating a nature reserve to building an amphitheatre for a school,” says Vicky Smith.
Clients include the Peak District National Park, for whom the team has installed geotextiles in gullies to stabilise peat and encourage heather to grow.
The team has also worked on constructing and maintaining nature reserves for businesses and local authorities and on sustainable drainage schemes – or SuDS – designed to create ecological solutions that prevent a repeat of the flooding which hit industrial areas of South Yorkshire in 2007.