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Most development proposals require consideration of how it will impact on the biodiversity on or close to a site. Early identification of any ecological constraints will ensure that your development is not delayed by planning and the appropriate mitigation or compensation is incorporated into the design phase.

Habitat surveys

Support for your planning application often starts with a preliminary survey.

Many terms are used to describe the preliminary survey, these include:

  • Baseline surveys
  • Extended phase 1 habitat survey
  • Constraints survey
  • Ecological site assessment
  • Ecological site appraisal
  • Ecological scoping survey
  • Walkover survey

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management consider these to be too limited or the terminology too loose. The term “Preliminary Ecological Assessment” is now used and a standard approach to this kind of assessment and it provides you, the developer, and regulators with certainty as to the level of ecological survey required for the situation.

An initial Preliminary Ecological Assessment (PEA) is carried out of your site to identify the habitats and potential for the site to support protected and/or notable species. In doing so the PEA will:

  • establish baseline conditions and determine the importance of ecological features present (or those that could be present) within the specified area, as far as is possible
  • establish any requirements for detailed/ further surveys
  • identify key constraints to the project and make recommendations for design options to avoid significant effects on important ecological features/resources at an early stage
  • identify the mitigation measures as far as possible, including those that will be required, and those that may be required (based on results of further surveys or final scheme design)
  • identify enhancement opportunities.

Species surveys

Photo of protected species toadMost planning applications will require an assessment of all planning ecological effects. A PEA will not provide all of the information required by the regulatory body. In many cases it is a helpful first step and the findings of the PEA will inform if any subsequent ecological, species specific surveys will be required.

Many species of wildlife are protected by law and therefore it is essential that you determine whether any protected species live on your land. These can include:

  • Bats
  • Badgers
  • Dormouse
  • Water vole
  • Otters
  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Great crested newts
  • Natterjack toads
  • Smooth snakes
  • Invertebrates

Different species are active at different times of the year so it’s important to know that a species specific survey will restricted to seasonal timings. For example, a Daytime Bat inspection looking for hibernation roots within an existing building or feature can be carried out anytime throughout the year. However a bat activity survey required to evidence roosting bats is limited to an optimum period from the beginning of May to the end of September (with April and October being sub-optimal).

Avoidance of adverse impacts on protected species and their habitats as a direct or indirect result of your development is always the first consideration. If your site is affected it will also be necessary to design specific mitigation measures that will significantly reduce the impacts to the habitats on or next to your site and the wildlife species that they support.

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