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Rare species discovered at unlikely wildlife haven

An electricity substation in Essex has become an unlikely wildlife haven for a rare species of plant.

From Press releases - 8 April 2014 12:00 AM

UKPN Heather Patrick-9a.jpg

An electricity substation in Essex has become an unlikely wildlife haven for a rare species of plant.

UK Power Networks is working with wildlife experts to survey key sites in the county for conservation through its partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust.

The energy firm delivers electricity to eight million customers across East Anglia, London and the South East through its vast infrastructure of overhead power lines, underground cables and substations.

During one such survey, the nationally scarce plant lesser calamint was spotted thriving at the company’s Belchamp site on the Essex/Suffolk border where the land is relatively untouched and undisturbed.

Heather Patrick, environment advisor at the company, said: “UK Power Networks has been a corporate member of Essex Wildlife Trust - and the other eight wildlife trusts in its patch – since 2011 but the partnership goes well beyond simple membership.

“We have called on their expertise to ensure that wherever possible, the maintenance of our sites enhances the local environment, not destroys it.

“As the public are strictly prohibited from entering our substations on safety grounds, this allows wildlife habitats to thrive relatively untouched by modern-day life.”

Once the sites have been surveyed, habitat management plans are drawn up to protect any rare plant or animal life found there.

The information and expertise provided by the trusts supports UK Power Networks’ Work Green programme, which is an environmental training course that is available to all field staff, designers and engineers.

Michele Farrant, corporate manager at Essex Wildlife Trust, said: “It is so encouraging that as the substations are untouched and undisturbed, wildlife habitats are thriving.

“Wildlife has a unique way of establishing itself in the most unexpected sites and having habitat management plans in place ensures it is protected.

“This is another example that demonstrates the strength of the partnership between both organisations.”

The habitat management plans for UK Power Networks’ substations include:

• mowing timed to allow wildflowers to seed
• vegetation diversity encouraged to provide nectar for bees and other vital pollinators
• hedges cut in rotation to provide shelter, food and nesting opportunities for birds
• log piles and compost heaps created to provide shelter and food for invertebrates and reptiles
• ponds managed to maintain favourable conditions for great crested newts to breed.