Botanist Barbara helps Banks protect and improve Penny Hill hedgerows and habitats

June 12, 2014 | Community News

The work done by Banks Renewables to protect and enhance the environment around its Penny Hill wind farm near Ulley in South Yorkshire has been praised by a local hedgerows expert.

Retired teacher and amateur botanist Barbara Littlewood MBE has been involved with a wide range of conservation work that has been carried out around Rotherham over many years through her membership of groups including Rotherham’s Biodiversity Forum, Sorby Natural History Society and Rotherham Naturalists Society.

She is also the author of an information pack on hedgerows that has been used in local schools and Nature Clubs for about twenty years, and says she is “thrilled to bits with what’s been done” at the Penny Hill site.

Barbara raised the importance of protecting and improving the hedgerows around the Penny Hill wind farm when Banks’ scheme design was going through the planning approval process, as well as highlighting the need to protect local wildlife habitats and nearby Carr Lane, an historic trackway thought to be about 1,000 years old.

Once Banks Renewables had received planning approval for the six turbine scheme, which is located to the south east of Rotherham and west of the junction of the M1 and M18, the Penny Hill development team contacted Barbara, who then consulted Carolyn Jones the Ecology Development Officer for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to ensure that the environmental priorities that she’d identified were addressed during the wind farm construction.

Barbara Littlewood says: “I‘ve been involved with a lot of land and conservation  survey work in the area, so when the wind farm was first mooted, my priority was to ensure that the existing hedgerows in and around the site were protected, and that a long-term approach was taken to look after the various habitats used by local wildlife.

“Once Banks had been given planning permission, they approached me, Carolyn Jones and several naturalists to walk around the site, so we could point out areas where we felt things ought to be done, such as gaps in hedgerows that needed filling, which parts of the hedgerow could be removed for trackways, which trees could be removed to get access and which line across a field a track could take so that natural features and ditches could be preserved.

“For example, there were dry ditches on the site that I knew formed habitats for frogs and toads.

These needed to be preserved so that they could fill with water and be used by frogs for spawning in the Spring and for Toads which migrate to Ulley Reservoir to spawn.

“Jeff Blades, a member of Aston cum Aughton History Group, pointed out areas of archaeological interest, as well as Carr Lane, which has now been safeguarded with a new protective membrane.

“The Banks team responded well passing on various reports, including Hedgerow Survey and Assessment reports, Otter, Water Vole and Bat Habitat Assessments and an Archaeological Evaluation, and went out of their way to provide plans and information when I asked for it.

I read and studied all the reports, consulting with colleagues when necessary and reported back to the Banks team, who kept me fully up-to-date with work as it progressed.

“I’m thrilled to bits with what’s been done, and amazed at how well it’s turned out. The newly created landscape looks great and it will develop and mature blending well into the countryside around it.”

As well as facilitating these improvements to the local environment and making a significant contribution towards meeting Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s renewable energy targets, the Penny Hill Wind Farm is also bringing a range of other benefits to the local area.

The community benefits fund associated with the wind farm, which will be worth over £750,000 across its 25-year lifespan, is already enabling Banks to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people.

The Maelstrom Explorer Scouts, who used a £1,000 grant to replace and upgrade their ageing stock of tents, and the Ulley Millennium Trust, who have resurfaced the car park at Ulley Village Hall using a £5,287 donation, were amongst the first organisations to receive backing from the Penny Hill community benefits fund, and a further tranche of grant awards is scheduled to be announced over the summer.

Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, adds: “Having someone with Barbara’s local knowledge and environmental expertise on hand as we built the Penny Hill Wind Farm was absolutely invaluable, and the importance of her contribution to the work we undertook can’t be underestimated.

“We work hard to try to understand the environment features of each location in which we work, and create appropriate action plans which protect and improve the existing habitats, as well as create or recreate new ones where opportunities arise, and it’s great to get positive feedback like this on the work that’s been done.”

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