A Stockton-based ecology consultancy has enjoyed its “best year ever” doubling turnover and staff numbers – and it is still growing!
Naturally Wild offer conservation and ecology consultancy to the construction sector and the likes of Highways England and Network Rail, to ensure protected wildlife species in Britain remain unharmed by bulldozers.
The company was set up 25 years ago and has a surprising number of competitors who work on tasks such as protecting rare and nesting birds, making new homes for badgers, capturing reptiles like snakes and lizards and safely moving dormice and newts.
But after an “interesting” year of growth and development, director and ecologist Graeme Skinner, who founded the firm as a freelance ecologist supporting wildlife around construction projects, believes Naturally Wild is one step ahead of the competition!
“In the last year, we’ve doubled our size so we’re now up to a team of 19 and we’ve also doubled turnover,” he said.
“It’s been very good and we are still not finished with the expansion.
“We are still looking for staff and developing things as there is a lot of innovation and new legislation that’s come in that makes the ecology side of construction a little bit more complicated for developers.”
One of the big changes for Naturally Wild has been the development of a training centre in the ground floor of the premises it bought five years ago.
This enables the firm to provide bespoke training to clients on their ecological duties and legal requirements.
In the past year, legislation called ‘biodiversity net gain’ has come into force, meaning that anyone developing an area of land has to ensure no wildlife is harmed in the first instance, but also has to create something that actually improves on what was there before from an ecology point of view.
Graeme explains: “Say you’re Amazon and you want to build a new warehouse. To get your planning consent, you have to offset the loss of that land with an improvement on what was there before, so you might have to replace a wild meadow or field somewhere else.
“There’s a massive need within our sector for clients in building, construction and infrastructure development to understand what their legal requirements are in relation to wildlife and ecology. We knew this was coming into force and it was one of the driving forces behind the new training room.”
Alongside new ecologists and other staff, Graeme has made two key appointments in Lauren Gibson as training manager and Alistair Wright as development manager.
“I’ve known our new training manager, Lauren Gibson for many years,” said Graeme.
“The addition of Lauren was something that I have wanted to do to drive the education side as a really important part of the business, but you can only push that side when you are a certain size and you’ve got the financial stability to build it.
“It’s taken a lot to get to that stage where I was comfortable in spending a lot of money on developing the business to that degree.”
Graeme says Alistair has also given the business “a slightly different outlook on things” as the company attempts to “keep ahead of the opposition”.
“These appointments will make us more competitive,” says Graeme.
“Our office in Salisbury has been open about a year and we are hoping to open another office in Herefordshire in September, so we are trying to recruit for that.
“It’s all hard work but we’re building a superb team.”
Although based on Teesside, Naturally Wild has contracts all over England, Scotland and Wales.
The company has also won some of the preliminary work on the multi-billion pound Stonehenge road tunnel project, which is now on hold buy may re-start soon.
“We are a very small part of it, but we feel a great sense of pride in being involved in a project like that,” said Graeme. “It’s certainly been an interesting year.”