Why are ecological surveys required?
Wildlife habitats can often be destroyed during construction activities of buildings. Ecological surveys of areas due for development should take place before construction is initiated and ensure that any protected species are not harmed or disturbed during development works. Procedures to replace habitats can also be implemented.
When will an ecological assessment be required?
When there is a likelihood that a planning proposal will adversely affect important species or habitats, an ecological assessment will need to be carried out. This will need to be submitted with the planning application.
Councils will screen all planning applications for the need for an ecological assessment. All ‘major’ developments and those developments on, adjacent to or containing sites of importance for nature conservation, biodiversity action plan habitats or rivers and green corridors are likely to require an ecological assessment.
Ecology assessments may also be an initial requirement for processes such as BREEAM, Environmental Impact Assessments and Code for Sustainable Homes.
What does an ecological assessment include?
An ecological assessment will identify features on or adjacent to the site that may be impacted upon by the proposed development and the likely impacts that the development would have on these features. These features include:
- Protected species – these include amongst others: bats, reptiles and great crested newt
- Protected sites – Sites of importance for nature conservation, e.g. Sites of Special Scientific Interest, SSSI and Local Wildlife Sites, LWS
- Wildlife corridors
- Important habitats – UK, county and local biodiversity action plan habitats
The assessment will include both on-site and off-site impacts; development can cause impacts beyond the boundary of a site.
What services do ecologists provide?
Consultant ecologists offer services on a wide range of ecological, planning, and development matters, including BREEAM/Code for Sustainable Homes Assessment and Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA). Ecologists also offer advice and expertise on more specialised ecological matters such as working on specific habitats – terrestrial, freshwater or marine; work with specific species (including European Protected Species where a licence may be needed), such as amphibians and reptiles, small mammals and flowering plants.
What time constraints are involved with wildlife surveys?
It is of great benefit to determine what surveys you need and when as early as possible, so your project does not face unnecessary delays. Your appointed ecologist can help with this.
Certain wildlife surveys need to be carried out at certain times of the year, or times of day. For example, bats hibernate in the winter months; therefore bat emergence/re-entry surveys should be carried out between May to September in line with the Bat Conservation Trust guidelines. Also, great crested newt surveys of potential breeding ponds can only be carried out between mid-March and mid-June, according to Natural England’s survey guidelines. Other wildlife will migrate, or be most active at dusk or dawn, or require warm or dry days.