During our involvement onthe HS2 project for the enabling works contractor, COOMBES methodology for capturing and providing detailed ecological data to teams on site and the client, utilises the latest GPS and GIS technology to capture ecological data in real time. This provides live GIS database mapping that informs Ecologists, Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) and site teams on ecological constraints and any method statements and licences in place. It also gives clients clear oversight of all past, current and future works.
We receive a scope of works from the client and the information is then used to create an ecological permit which details the works, including the access routes, working zones, and areas to be impacted on. This information is then relayed to the arborist and the sector ecologist who review this document once the arborist has approved the works.
Once the sector ecologist has reviewed the GIS database and identified any known ecological constraints (which we need to consider during the works), this information (with any issues, comments and recommendations), is transposed onto the GIS mapping database for all to access.
“I worked for Coombes as an ECoW and AA and highly recommend the team for managing ecological constraints. Due to design changes I needed to clear an area and ensure it was unsuitable for reptiles. I was concerned due to time constraints but Coombes had a drone engineer on site the next day with detailed maps and a plan shortly after. They are highly professional and solve problems with ease.”
<span class="text-small">Laura Collinson - Senior Ecologist</span>
Once the ecological permit is fully approved, this document is then sent to the ECoW, who conducts a ground truth assessment for the purpose of conducting a walkover survey and identifying any new or additional ecological constraints not originally identified in the GIS database.
Any new features are then uploaded onto the mapping database directly from site, using mobile GPS devices. Notes and images are also uploaded in the field, therefore effectively creating a real time information mapping solution for everybody to see, making them fully aware of their guidance and recommendations and any method statements and licences that are in place.
This has been especially beneficial for areas which have previously been mitigated and left. For example, GCN mitigation may have been completed in one area where vegetation has been stripped, which may then create suitable habitat for another species such as ground nesting birds. So, whilst mitigation has been carried out for one species, there is also a risk of creating suitable habitat for other protected species - which is why ongoing updates and reporting are vital.
For the ECoW’s and ecologists, the real time mapping database proves to be a really powerful and useful tool which enables us to monitor sites on an ongoing basis, helping to inform other ecologists and site teams where the ecological constraints are. At the same time, giving us the ability to update the mapping database immediately and providing a useful repository of data that can be used by the site team throughout.
It is also very useful for our clients, as it enables them to have real time visual information and data, allowing them to know when and how to close out any existing licences and where mitigation is still ongoing. It also enables our clients to review any outstanding works, giving them a better understanding of the programme and to close out any mitigation works in the future.
The ecological database has been a huge success since being implemented that have been 100,000 operational hours without ecological incident. Another advantage is that it has proved to be very time efficient, having all the relevant information at hand and at your fingertips has helped to increase productivity on-site and reduce downtime and project hold-ups.