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Case study: Low-impact site for telecommunications mast

Client: Pitcairn, aquisition consultants for a mobile phone telecommunications company.

Brief: To investigate a heathland area for a possible site for a cellular telephone mast in north east Hampshire which would not harm important habitats in the area.

The operational requirements for the proposed mast and other constraints meant that the mast site had to be on or very close to an area of heathland protected by national and international designations. Heathland (ericaceous dwarf-shrub vegetation) is a traditional rough-grazing habitat which has become extremely rare, and which often supports a number of very rare bird species. This site is part of an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest - British nature conservation designation) and has been proposed as an SPA (Special Protection Area for birds - EU bird conservation designation) - the rare birds in this case are Dartford warbler Silvia undata, nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus and woodlark Lullula arborea.

We surveyed the heathland area to Phase 1 level (UK standard for general vegetation survey). Like many surviving examples of rough-grazing habitats it has not been grazed for many years, but the important habitat survives amongst colonising trees and shrubs, and there have been some recent efforts to maintain its open character. There are large areas which support the heathland habitats and are suitable for the rare birds. One part of the area is occupied by a derelict sewage works, and no heathland habitat survives on this part. Survey map.

We advised that the mast could be sited within the derelict sewage works without harm to the habitats or rare birds. This option is being progressed with the planning authority and English Nature.

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