Name: Becky Strawbridge
Role: Associate Ecologist
I’m Becky Strawbridge, one of the Associate Ecologists at Stantec. My role involves working on a range of projects at any given time, helping clients with all stages of land and infrastructure development (including feasibility, land allocation, planning application, condition discharge, detailed design and construction, and post construction monitoring / land management). In practice, this is very varied and includes scoping surveys, advising on the implications of survey results, informing design development, multi-disciplinary working, and supporting clients and contractors achieve legal compliance on site with respect to protected species.
Since January 2017
We love the enthusiasm towards each new project or query, as well as the professional approach to bidding and completing the technical work. The technical expertise and experience of the consultants is recognised both internally and by our clients.
Ecologically, trees are very important, not least as a valuable habitat type in their own right, but also in their supporting role for a range of protected and notable species. Trees can be an important part of an area’s landscape character, provide a visual screen for new development, and provide an important role in achieving acoustic or air quality mitigation.
Retention of as much of the existing tree stock is important as it reduces the environmental impact of a given scheme, contributes to the immediate visual impact of a newly created scheme, and can help reduce the cost of delivering a scheme (given the cost of replacing mature trees). The current national policy requirement for development to achieve a net gain to biodiversity means the loss of mature tree stock from a development site needs to be quantified, and the losses compensated for. In light of the time it takes for new tree planting to reach maturity, provision of a comparatively much larger area of new tree planting is required to compensate for the loss of a small area of mature or semi-mature trees. Therefore, protection of existing stock (where practical to do so) pays dividends to our clients, as well as to biodiversity.
My perception is that clients and contractors (both individuals and organisations) are more appreciative of the value which trees provide to both the environment and the community. This is more apparent when the tree stock is visibly of high quality, or in an area where there is very little semi-natural habitat. On projects I’ve worked on, discussions about practical tree retention have been given much greater emphasis during the design stage, and relevant LPA officers have become more engaged with tree loss / retention, and proposed tree protection measures at the consenting stage.
I fully expect that trees, and biodiversity in general be given greater weighting in scheme development going forwards. I think that two key drivers which will support this shift will be (1) the greater value the public is expected to place access to open and semi-natural habitat in light of the covid-19 lockdown; and (2) how policy and legislation either leads the way or responds to industry shift. For example, if Biodiversity Net Gain is mandated (e.g. through the Environment Bill), then I would expect developers will become more proactive at considering the impacts of their development footprint with respect to habitats of higher value (not just trees).
For me, keeping to a set routine has been really important; starting work at a consistent time each morning, taking a break for lunch, and not dipping back into work after I’ve finished for the day has set mental boundaries for work time vs personal time. On a practical level, use of meeting invites has helped keep project discussions to time and using out of office responses when I’m going to be unavailable for large chunks of time (for example due to back to back meetings) has helped manage expectations on response time for email traffic. Finally, regular video calls with the team have been invaluable for keeping positive, maintaining perspective, and reminding us we are part of a team (even if we’re not sat next to them every day!).