CV19 and Advice for the Sector

CIEEM supports all efforts that the governments of the UK, the Irish Government, and society are taking to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We strongly advise our members to bear in mind the spirit of what is trying to be achieved, and to do their utmost to support it. We believe that our members will make decisions that are right for their individual situations, with safety and helping to minimise any risk of spreading the disease, as the paramount considerations.

If you do undertake site-based work at this time, we have provided guidance (revised 6 July 2020) on how to do so safely.

We have further published Guidance on Ecological Survey and Assessment in the UK During the Covid-19 Outbreak (Version 3) (29 June 2020) and Guidance on Ecological Survey and Assessment in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland During the Covid-19 Outbreak (30 May 2020). These guidance documents have been drafted by experienced ecologists as a tool to help CIEEM members continue to undertake ecological survey and assessment during the restrictions necessitated by the Covid-19 outbreak, where they can do so safely.

We encourage all members, in undertaking work, to be considerate of and sensitive to local communities.

England

The UK government added, on 7 April 2020, specific guidance for ‘outdoor businesses’ on the ‘Social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus (COVID-19): sector guidance’ webpage.

Following direct correspondence with Defra, CIEEM has received a letter from the Ministerial Contact Unit (dated 9 April 2020) clarifying how coronavirus guidance relates to ecological and environmental professionals in England.

The letter states that: “Ecologists and environmental professionals should therefore be able to continue with outdoor work, including ecological surveying and supervision, where they can continue to follow Public Health England guidelines.”

And that “… the cessation of environmental survey works would risk causing later delays in the development sector. We would like to thank CIEEM and other environmental professional associations for offering advice to help their members adhere to Government guidelines whilst going about their important work.”

Please do read the full letter and consider the UK Government guidance before deciding on the course of action for you and/or your business.

On Monday 11 May 2020, the UK Government published its recovery strategy.

Wales

Following direct correspondence with Welsh Government, CIEEM has received a letter from Julie James AC/AM, Minister for Housing and Local Government (dated 4 May 2020) clarifying the continuation of ecological work during the current Covid-19 restrictions in Wales.

The letter states: “The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (“Coronavirus Regulations”) prohibit people from leaving or remaining away from the place where they live without reasonable excuse. One of the reasonable excuses is the need to travel for the purposes of work where it is not reasonably practicable for that person to work from where they are living. As you point out in your letter, undertaking ecological field work or studies is one of these examples.

The Chief Planner wrote to local planning authorities on 29 April to provide guidance on this, and a number of other practical planning issues, confirming our expectation that the planning system will continue to function during this difficult time.”

Please do read the full letter and consider the guidelines as set out by the Welsh Government, and the associated guidance for employers and businesses, before deciding on the course of action for you and/or your business.

On 24 April 2020, the Welsh Government published its framework for recovery, explaining how it will “lead Wales out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in a way that keeps everyone safe and revitalises our economy as quickly as possible”.

Natural Resources Wales has now updated the Countryside Code to reflect the current Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing measures.

Scotland

The Scottish Government has published guidance on safe working in support of restarting outdoor forestry and a range of environmental management activities, including peatland restoration, wildlife and nature reserve management, and ecological surveys and research. This was clarified in a response to a Parliamentary Question S5W-29683 answered on 15 June 2020.

We have confirmation that formal survey and monitoring work is categorised under ‘ecological surveys and research‘. Such work can proceed outwith the ‘broadly 5-mile’ threshold that remains in existence for other outdoor leisure activities, as long as the FISA guidance is followed, noting in particular the essential requirement for appropriate risk assessments.

We advise all ecologists to operate within the spirit of the broader guidance published by the Scottish Government, ideally staying within a short distance of your local community and “travelling by walk, wheel and cycle” wherever possible. Do be respectful that in rural environments local people are very sensitive to the presence of unfamiliar vehicles, and are anxious to ensure that risks of virus transmission are kept to a minimum.

Members working in Scotland should follow the guidelines as set out by the Scottish Government, and the associated guidance for businesses. Scottish Natural Heritage has also provided specific guidance.

Northern Ireland

Many of the lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland have now been lifted. Outdoor work has been permitted since 17 April 2020, and there are no travel restrictions within Northern Ireland. Members working in Northern Ireland should follow the guidelines as set out by the Northern Irish Government, and the associated guidance for business and employers. As noted above, social distancing and hygiene protocols must be followed at all times. Employers should review their working practices to ensure that social distancing can be implemented, particularly for indoor work and transport. CIEEM has provided guidance for site work, which emphasises a Dynamic Risk Assessment approach, keeping the risks under review throughout the activity. Employees should still work from home wherever possible, and meetings should continue to be undertaken remotely.

There is no restriction on cross-border travel from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland or to Great Britain. However, a 14-day self-isolation period will apply for anyone that has been outside the Common Travel Area in the previous 14 days. Further information is available from NI Direct.

Republic of Ireland

Many of the lockdown restrictions in the Republic of Ireland have now been lifted. Outdoor work has been permitted since 18 May 2020, and there are no nationwide travel restrictions since 29 June 2020. Hotels and B&Bs were also permitted to re-open since 29 June 2020, which will assist with remote fieldwork. Members should refer to the ‘Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business’ for further details.

However, social distancing and hygiene protocols must be followed at all times. Employers should review their working practices to ensure that social distancing can be implemented, particularly for indoor work and transport. CIEEM has provided guidance for site work, which emphasises a Dynamic Risk Assessment approach, keeping the risks under review throughout the activity. The Irish Government still recommends that employees should work from home wherever possible, and meetings should continue to be undertaken remotely.

There is no restriction on cross-border travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, the Irish government states that non-essential overseas travel must be avoided, including to Great Britain. Anyone travelling to Ireland from overseas (including Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland) must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. Visitors to Great Britain from Ireland (or anywhere else in the Common Travel Area) are not required to self-isolate, unless they have been to any other countries in the previous 14 days. Further information is available from the Irish Dept of Foreign Affairs and NI Direct.

CIEEM is in contact with planning authorities and statutory agencies (e.g. NPWS) to open up a dialogue on how planning and development decisions will be made in light of Government guidance. We have developed guidance for certain taxa on alternative approaches that can be taken to address gaps in survey information, for example by carrying out additional sampling later in the survey season.

 

This webpage was last updated on 6 July 2020.