Early involvement of ecology contractors benefits the developer’s balance sheet as much as the newts, argues James Lloyd, managing director of ecological contracting company Herpetosure

I often hear the words ‘delayed with newts’ or ‘knotweed is holding us up’. Do projects always get delayed by ecology? – No, but most do.

Developers too often are still getting caught out by ecology. Dealing with the issue takes longer than expected and costs are more than budgeted. Many projects are delayed before they even come online. Fire fighting always ramps up costs and leaves a developer paying more than they have to.

Factoring in the thousands of mitigation projects I have been involved in over the last ten years I have found that schemes which involve ecological contractors at mitigation planning stage are fifty times less likely to be delayed than those designed without their input.

Without exception, projects planned without ecological contractors are more expensive to implement, risk more delays and achieve lower ecological value.

Delving a little deeper, on-site delays as result of ecology are almost always down to poor phase transition – newt fencing is done by traditional fencing contractors or landscapers - habitat removal by clearance contractors – invasive weeds by muck-away contractors – and so on.

But why? This is the slowest and most expensive method of procuring a solution, and is the root cause of so many ecological and invasive weed delay disasters.

The biggest problem is that each requirement is critically dependant on the next and ecology influences them all. But sharp developers can take out the uncertainty and guess work by talking to the contractors who do the work before setting time scales, targets and budgets.

The key is finding specialist contractors who are capable of delivering integrated ecological fencing, habitat enhancement, site clearance and invasive weed treatment services in house is always the way forward. - using one contractor to do all the work will always accelerate the process.

The idea of multiple solutions from one provider isn’t new to the industry. It has been around for years and we know it works. So why is it not happening with ecology, clearance and invasive weeds?

Paying the ecology bill is a legal obligation. So you might as well spend the money wisely, otherwise you don’t know how much you’ll end up paying.

And there is one other critical benefit of choosing a dedicated ecological contractor – ecologists trust them.

Ecologists often get blamed for putting the kybosh on project progress, and unsurprisingly many ecologists are frustrated by the lack of ecological understanding in the industry. Good ecological contractors can bridge the gap; maintaining relations and facilitating project progress.

If there is a golden rule, it is that these organisations are at their most valuable when involved at the earliest stages; either planning a mitigation strategy with ecologists or helping main contractors in bidding for work.