A day in the life of...

Heather Lewis, conservation manager, planning

Heather always wanted to be a life scientist and has degrees in biology and environmental management. She has worked for two Wildlife Trusts, the Environment Agency and NGOs in the UK and overseas.


8.35 I drop my son at school and head straight to the office.

9.00 A quick catch-up with my team. The three of us provide ecology planning advice to 10 of the 11 local planning authorities in Surrey.

9.30 Calls start coming in from planning case officers. SWT is the only organisation in Surrey that can provide consistent ecological oversight on building development projects and the planners want our advice on the proposals they receive. We check ecologists’ reports, to make sure they adhere to best practice and match the actual work planned.

10.30 I’m advising on a proposal to redevelop an old nursery site. National planning policy currently requires no net loss, but with the incoming Environment Act will soon require a minimum level of biodiversity net gain. I’ve discovered that the applicant has a larger woodland site nearby which, under a robust management plan, can compensate for the smaller development. Following our advice, the planning authority secures a long-term agreement with the developer to manage the site for biodiversity. Sometimes we work with council enforcement officers to make sure it happens.

12.30 I make time for a quick walk. I would like to get out to development sites more often, but you can still have a big impact from your desk.

1.00 More calls and emails. This job focuses on the 96% of Surrey that the Trust doesn’t manage, and we are always trying to get the maximum benefit for wildlife. Specifically, we provide the link between developers and planning officers.

3.00 School pick-up time. We go home via Ash Ranges, which is managed by the Trust, so there’s always a lot to see. Last week my son found a banded centipede and a bedraggled parasitic wasp. I think I’m training him to be a naturalist.

Heather Lewis