The requirement for an ecological or environmental clerk of work (ECoW) is often enshrined as a planning condition for larger projects or those with specific environmental sensitivities, but what is the purpose? Atmos Regional Director for the Highlands, Dr Greg Fullarton explains.  

Firstly, ECoW’s can either work for the contractor or the client but are often there to provide unbiased independent oversight of environmental obligations. They will often have the power to “stop the job” if there is a serious environmental breach. This is a last resort and a good ECoW will be on top, or ideally ahead, of issues as they occur. Good communication with site staff is key as is an eye for detail, a cool head and plenty of pragmatism.

Large projects may have a long and daunting schedule of environmental mitigation to comply with, sometimes running into hundreds of conditions, although sometimes there is only a single issue, such as golden eagles. It is the ECoW that will ensure the contractor delivers the mitigation. Mitigation is there for a reason – whether to protect the water environment from pollution, noise disturbance to neighbouring properties or disturbance of protected mammals, birds or habitats.


Not to the deliver mitigation effectively may be an offence and attract steep fines, potential imprisonment and reputational damage for your company.

The ECoW is there to help and it worth paying attention to what they say to ensure the contract runs smoothly and avoids unnecessary delays. View the ECoW as your onsite environmental expertise and work with them to get the job done. Sometimes mitigation measures may not be deliverable on site, a good ECoW will help you find a way through to ensure environmental obligations are met.

A good ECoW should be able to undertake a range of ecological surveys or if not, will be able to bring in a specialist that can. This is where an “ECoW team” approach that we use at Atmos can work well, whereby staff with particular specialisms relevant to the site are swapped out depending on the skill set required on site. Good communication within the team is essential to making this approach work.

In recent years, the Atmos Inverness  have undertaken over 50 ECoW roles on projects of all scales – single house sites and hotel upgrades with bat is issues, hydro schemes, wind farms, ground investigation works, road realignments, powerline upgrades to major property developments. We have operated in the most sensitive parts of the Highlands and Islands, including the St Kilda dual world heritage site.

Many of our jobs run simultaneously and require precise project management and logistics skills to resource. We have had no significant environmental incident and have never had to use our power to stop a job – that is record of excellence that speaks for itself.

To Find out more about our ECoW services contact us today.