There’s no denying the British love of wildlife but when it comes to planning applications, most of us have no idea what species are protected and what an ecology report entails. With planning consents being issued with ecological conditions added by the local authority, many developers, architects and building owners will overlook this aspect until it is too late. To prevent a development being held up, or at worst, a breach of planning consent, it’s vital that you include ecological assessments carried out by a qualified Ecologist at the earliest stage in a project’s development.
Ecology is an important and integral part of planning, particularly as the UK has a large number of protected and notable species – from bats to badgers, reptiles to great crested newts – all of which carry their own complications when it comes to a planning application. Will my development harm any wildlife or their habitats? How can any impacts be reduced?
Whether large or small, most projects will not progress unless all ecological issues on a site have been identified and addressed. Furthermore, an Ecologist can also help a client throughout a BREEAM assessment to ensure that all land-use and ecology credits are maintained as well as offering helpful and constructive advice on how to get them.
Potential developments should employ the services of a suitably qualified and licensed Ecologist who can provide an array of Ecological Assessments and surveys to help with planning needs and prevent any hold-ups when it comes to actually starting the work. An Ecologist should have an understanding of nature conservation legislation and planning, and be recognised by a relevant professional body such as CIEEM.
It’s important to start the ecology process early because if a developer needs further surveys to make sure all ecological issues are addressed, they will have wiggle-room before a planning application is due, in order to make sure they satisfy all issues.
For example, if you carried out a Bat Building Assessment to check for bats roosting in a building, you might then have to do a dusk/dawn survey in order to make sure the bats were not coming in-and-out of the building in the evening and morning. You might have to go through the licensing process with Natural England which is a hefty, lengthy process if things are not done correctly, or to the standard of the bat guidelines by the Bat Conservation Trust. More questions may come back and more surveys may be required. Getting things done sooner, rather than later, by employing a Licensed Bat Ecologist will save time and money, as well as achieving planning requirements.
The Local Planning Authority will dictate whether or not it requires an ecological assessment of a project as part of a planning application. This would be based on how the land in its district/county is valued by means of protected species it possesses.
Normally when planning permission is approved, the LPA will have its own Ecologist, who would impartially assess the assessments/surveys of the Consultant Ecologist on the project in question and advise their LPA on whether the assessments/surveys have met the ecological criteria and considered all issues and options before planning is approved.
Ecology can be daunting for the uninitiated, our Ecologist helps our clients through the planning process by providing the preliminary assessments to understand what issues are on a site and ensure any issues are tackled in a cost-effective and safe way.