UK ecological legislation and policy is complicated and difficult to navigate your way around, particularly if ecology is not your specialism. We are aware that some of our clients may be new to this discipline and as such we have provided a few simple tips and guidance below on how to approach ecological matters with respect to your project or development. Please feel free to contact us for further advice at any time.
Our Most Important Tip
We would recommend that you consider ecological matters early on during your planning process. The statutory authorities now require all necessary ecological surveys to be complete before they will grant planning permission. However, some ecological surveys can only be undertaken at specific times of the year. The seasonality of ecological surveys can result in significant delays to your project unless you have built them into your programme. Timetables illustrating the survey seasons for different species and the appropriate timing of many common mitigation works are provided below.
Start With an Extended Phase I Survey
The first step is to undertake a desktop study and walkover survey to identify any ecological constraints or opportunities associated with your site.
During this initial walkover visit, we can also build in initial surveys for bats, badgers and barn owls as well as assessing the potential of the site to support protected and Biodiversity Action Plan species.
In many cases, the initial survey demonstrates that there are no significant ecological constraints associated with your site and no further survey work is required. In these instances, the Extended Phase I survey report can be submitted immediately to support your planning application.
Further Work that May be Required
However, in some instances, the initial surveys demonstrate that there are ecological constraints associated with your development. These usually fall into one of the following categories:
a) Protected Species
The initial walkover survey found evidence of, or potential for, protected or Biodiversity Action Plan species on the site. In these circumstances, further survey is usually required by the local planning authority in advance of granting planning permission to identify the size of the population and the degree to which they might be affected by development. Protected species that are frequently encountered on development sites include bats, great crested newts, reptiles, badgers, barn owls, water voles and dormice.
Should the results of the survey indicate that a protected or Biodiversity Action Plan species would be affected by the development, then a Mitigation Scheme will be required by the local planning authority. The survey report and Mitigation Scheme will need to be submitted to support your planning application. You should expect implementation of the Mitigation Scheme to be a condition of your planning permission.
For some species, including bats, great crested newts, dormice and badgers, a Natural England licence is also required before development can commence. These licences can only be issued once planning permission has been granted and can take up to 40 days to issue. The licence will require a Mitigation Scheme to be implemented (this should be the same Scheme submitted at the planning application stage) and will also require monitoring to determine the success of the mitigation.
We can provide our services at all stages of the process, including obtaining Natural England licences.
b) Site Designated for Nature Conservation
In some instances, the initial studies may demonstrate that your development could impact on a designated site or valuable Biodiversity Action Plan habitat. There are a wide variety of sites designated for nature conservation purposes in the UK, ranging from internationally and nationally designated sites protected by legislation to local sites that receive policy protection.
In these circumstances, the statutory authorities are likely to require additional survey work and/or mitigation. The additional work required is dependent on the value of the site and the degree of impact from development. Mitigation could range from avoidance and protection during construction to habitat restoration and enhancement. Please note that any development with residual impacts on a European site (SAC, SPA or Ramsar site) or national site (SSSI or NNR) is highly unlikely to be granted permission.
We are happy to provide further advice for specific sites as required.