We've provided a selection of commonly asked questions regarding ecological surveys that may be required for your development. If we don't answer your question specifically, CONTACT US.
I've Been Told I Need an Ecological Survey...What Does this Mean?
Once the need for an ecological survey has been identified, this can take various forms, varying from a brief walkover survey to a full suite of various protected species surveys and more.
This will depend on several factors including the site's location, the nature of the development, the proximity to nearby wildlife sites, and the liklihood of protected species (e.g. is there a pond for great crested newts) etc.
The most common survey is an ecological appraisal (extended pahse 1 habitat survey) which will look at the overall habitats within your site and any potential constraints (i.e. protected species). Once the need for specific surveys have been identified, these will be specifically addressed.
Sometimes specific surveys are all that is required from the LPA. In this case, we undertake any such surveys and advise if any other survey may be required.
Why Do I Need an Ecological Survey?
Certain habiats and species are protetced by both UK and European laws and legislation. This may make your development illegal if any protected species or habitats were to be harmed or disturbed in any way.
In order to reduce this risk, ecological surveys identify where and when protected species may be an issue. From this, we can identify any mitigation, compensation and enhancement options in order to maintain afavourable local population status of the affected species'.
Sometimes, a European Protected Species (EPS) licence may be required to disturb protected species. This can only be obtained once sufficeint survey effort and mitigation planning as been undertaken . EPS licences can be obtained from Natural England, or through Natural Resources Wales.
How Do I Get the Surveys Done?
Contact us! Or at least contact your local ecologist. Find recognised ecologists in the CIEEM directory in your local area (see Useful Links). Your friendly ecologist should hold a relevant personal class licence from Natural England or the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO) e.g. Natural Resources Wales to work with specific protected species. Show them your requirements, see what they recommend, ask for their timescale and get a quote! Also ask as many questions as you can, we're here to help conserve are natural environment, but we're also here to help you get through planning!
Can Protected Species be Conditioned for Planning?
In most cases, no. Protected species are a material consideration. The National Planning Policy Framework (2012) reminds local planning authorities and developers that important species and habitats (including those included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and Local Biodiversity Action Plans) occur outside of protected sites and can be a material consideration in planning. Parts of this framework have now been superseded by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act (2006) which amends the duty on all public bodies to conserve biodiversity and in particular amends the list of species and habitats of principal importance for biodiversity conservation in England and in Wales.
When Do I Need to Think About the Surveys?
As soon as possible! Things get very busy for ecologist in the summer, so be sure to plan well in advance. Always ask your planning authority if any ecological surveys are required for your development. Far too often this will be red flagged at the 11th hour (often during Autumn), when the survey season has ended. This can cause delays of up to a year, so its well worth thinking ahead! See our Works Calendar for details on recommended survey and mitigation timing.
How Many Surveys Do I Need?
Depending on the findings of the initial survey, several things may happen. No evidence of protected species may be found, and the site may be considered unsuitable for protected species and no further survey effort may be required. Alternatively, the site may provide good potential for protected species (e.g. good habitat or potential roosting areas), in which case further survey effort is required on a phased approach. If evidence is still not found, then no further work is likely, Finally, if evidence of protected speciesis observed, then a full suite of surveys is recommended as this will probably mean you need to apply for a licence. Essentially, we won't know how much survey effort is truly required until an initial scoping survey has been undertaken, although we can estimate the liklihood based on your site.
Do I Need a Protected Species Licence?
Due to the level of protection, any form of disturbance to protected species, or damage to their places of shelter (even if they're not present) may constitute an offence un UK and European law. In order to undertake a development legally, a European Protected Species (EPS) Licence may be necessary to allow otherwise illegal activites to be undertaken. Before an EPS licence can be sought, sufficient survey effort is necessary to understand the the extent of the species present, and the importance of the sites. Sometimes this can take a whole season, or even several seasons to get sufficient information if the site is large or important (e.g. a maternity roost for rare bat species). For more information on licensing, see Protected Species Licences.
Do I Always Need to Apply for a Licence if I Have Protected Species on My Site?
It depends. Some protected species have a higher level protection than others. For example, common reptile species such as slow worms are protected from disturbance, injury and taking, however their habitat may not be specifically protected. Is the development likely to damage, destroy, or obstruct a place of shelter? WIll the development disturb, injure or protected species? If so, then the answer is probably yes, although this is not always the case as there are some exceptional circumstances. However, the works can be sometimes be completed but creating an Ecological Management Plan (EMP) where the development can avoid impacting upon protected species by the timing of work, and specific precautions that can be put in place. An EMP alone should only be considered once sufficient survey effort has been undertaken and, there will be no conflict with UK and European wildlife law. An EMP cannot be used alone if, for example a roost is being destroyed (e.g. house demolition) or if bats will be actively disturbed (e.g. some works can only be done in the survey activity season).