An ecology team at a pioneering public sector planning and development consultancy is expanding to cope with growing demand.

Telford-based apT’s team of ecological experts has trebled in two years, partly as a result of winning new consultancy work outside their home borough.

The team – made up of ecology and green infrastructure specialists Mark Latham, Fran Lancaster and Nicola Stone – will expand again later in the year as it continues to go from strength to strength.

Fran, who joined the Council in 2013, said the team’s wide range of skills and the innovative way in which apT was set up to offer its skills commercially whilst being a part of Telford & Wrekin Council, were huge factors in its success.

“Having grown from being the only ecologist in the department two years ago, our team now has a mix of commercial survey experience, protected species mitigation and licensing, statutory planning, specialist air pollution assessment and planning policy skills which allows us to take on complex projects and to provide our clients with the best possible service.

“The team has statutory roles within the planning system and in supporting other teams across the Council but also sits within apT and is able to engage in commercial work.

“We are successfully winning commercial survey work outside the borough and building capacity to continue to grow our local authority work and projects.”

Last year the team secured a series of contracts with both private clients and neighbouring authority estates departments. These have seen the team undertake surveys for amphibians, reptiles, badgers and breeding birds to inform schemes ranging in size and complexity from single home owner developments, self-build schemes to large residential developments.

Fran said the team’s local authority backgrounds meant they had specialist skills which other commercial consultancies could not always offer.

“We are particularly experienced in Habitat Regulation Assessment, both of plans and projects, and Nicola brings significant experience of assessing aerial emissions associated with livestock developments.”

The team has been particularly successful in declaring new Local Nature Reserves with Telford & Wrekin Council and was now working to finish an ambitious programme which will declare 16 LNRs covering around 520 hectares in the borough – three times the recommended standard.

Fran added: “We are actively involved in positively managing these sites with our colleagues in Neighbourhood Services, and alongside local communities, town and parish councils and friends groups.

“Our LNRs, alongside Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Wildlife Sites represent the best quality and most biodiverse habitats in the borough and are intended to be accessible to local communities for recreation, education and enjoyment.”

The team is also working on two grant funded projects with Shropshire Wildlife Trust to deliver wetland habitat works at Apley Woods and Dothill in Telford and habitat improvements and community engagement schemes along the Newport Canal SSSI.

“The council has also allocated a further £50,000 of funding to the 200 Green Guarantee sites across the borough – small local green spaces in Council ownership which are being protected for public use. The ecology team is looking at how we deliver that programme of works at the moment.”

apT is the Midlands’ first public sector commercial planning, development and environmental consultancy.