Many developments or building projects will require the submission of an Ecological Survey Report as part
of the planning application. But why are these surveys required and what is actually included within the report?
In short, planning authorities are obliged to consider the impact of any development on the local wildlife.
They have a responsibility to ensure that any potential impacts are wherever possible avoided, mitigated
and or compensated for. In addition planners are expected to ensure that a site is actually enhanced for
However, in order to comply with the regulations, planners first need to know whether the development is
likely to have an impact and an Ecological Survey provides them with the information they require.
The type of survey commonly required by the planning department was originally called a ‘Phase 1 Habitat Survey’ but is now more commonly known as an 'Ecological Appraisal' or 'Ecological Survey' or perhaps even an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey. The main purpose of the report is to identify any habitats or protected species which might potentially exist on or in close proximity to the site and make recommendations as to how the development might be able to proceed with the least possible impact and ideally no impact on biodiversity whatsoever. Where this is unavoidable compensation measures may be called for.
The initial survey may recommend further specialist surveys for protected species and may include bats, reptiles, birds, amphibians and mammals. These surveys are focused initially on confirming the presence or absence of these species on site and making the appropriate recommendations to the planning department.
Because some species can only be surveyed for at specific times of the year, their suspected presence may delay a planning application for a considerable time. Thus it is usually worth instructing surveys at the earliest opportunity.
If you are considering a development in a particularly urban area or an area which would appear to have a range of species present, it may be worth investing in an initial scoping / feasibility appraisal prior to agreeing to purchase the site.
This type of survey lacks the depth of a full survey, but it should highlight ecological aspects or considerations that might lead to financial implications that could jeopardise the feasibility of the project.
So although a further (full) survey may still be required for planning, an initial scoping survey may save considerable sums of money and time chasing planning which may not be forthcoming, or may cost a great deal of money to satisfy the ecological constraints.
Photography by Joe Shimbart