Guide Planning and Biodiversity

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2. Ecological Surveys and Reports

Requests for information will be proportionate to the nature and scale of the development proposals and will only be requested where the Local Planning Authority consider it relevant, necessary and material to the application in question.

It is important to note that ecological survey data is generally valid for a period of up to two years; therefore, surveys may need to be repeated during the planning process. See CIEEM Advice Note 'On The Lifespan of Ecological Reports and Surveys'.

Ecological surveys are often seasonally constrained, e.g., could span several months, and must be undertaken in the correct ecological season. More than one survey may be required to adequately assess all impacts of a proposal.

If indicated by the Wildlife Checklist an initial Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) should be undertaken. This will identify the need for any further surveys, the results of which should be presented in an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) report. These reports are described in more detail below.

Planning applications cannot be validated where further ecological surveys are recommended in ecological survey reports. Any recommended further surveys must also be undertaken prior to submission of the planning application. This is clearly stated in the East Devon Validation Checklist. It is based on national guidance on the application of the law relating to planning and nature conservation as it applies in England.

Reports should be written in plain English, be in accordance with CIEEM guidelines, BS 42020:2013, and published survey guidelines. Any survey limitations and/or deviations from published survey guidelines must be explicitly stated and backed up by robust evidence.

Who should prepare ecological information?

Applicants submitting ecological information with their planning application will need to employ a suitably experienced and qualified ecologist. Certain surveys require a licensed ecologist, for example bat inspections, great crested newt surveys and dormouse surveys.

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) is the main body in the UK promoting good practice and professionalism in ecology and membership of this organisation is a good indication of competence. CIEEM have a directory of members and provides Guidelines for Ecological Report Writing and information on employing ecologists.

A competent ecologist may not be a member of CIEEM or other professional bodies, e.g., Royal Society of Biology. However, when engaging an ecologist, it is important they hold the relevant experience and licences (if required) to ensure that your planning submission is considered robust and you are less likely to experience delays, e.g., if poor quality information is submitted.

Membership of professional bodies require adherence to a code of conduct and a requirement to maintain continuing professional development training. It is recommended you request evidence that the ecologist you employ has a track record for delivery of surveys and reports for planning. As a local authority we cannot recommend specific ecologists.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)

A PEA should be prepared in accordance with CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and must include:

  • The Wildlife Checklist
  • A thorough desk study. This should include data from Devon Biodiversity Records Centre (DBRC) which has the most comprehensive information on biodiversity sites and species in East Devon. Additional records may also be required, for example, impacts in cirl bunting consultation zones. When DBRC data is not used to inform a PEA, it will be expected that the report details why and considers any limitations to the absence of such data
  • For small scale projects, e.g., householder applications, web-based applications may be used but any licencing agreements of such data must be adhered to
  • A UK Habitat Classification (UKHabs) Survey to map the habitats present and identify any significant biodiversity features
  • An assessment of the likely presence of protected and priority species and habitats
  • Identification of any important ecological features (habitats, species, ecosystems) that may be affected by the development
  • A list of further ecological surveys likely to inform an EcIA (see below)
  • Identification of opportunities for ecological enhancement
  • A biodiversity net gain (BNG) assessment if the application is in scope for mandatory BNG
  • A location map and a clearly annotated habitat map (preferably in GIS format) showing all habitats on site with an identifiable scale, direction of North, and a key

Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)

The EcIA should be prepared in accordance with CIEEM Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment and should include all the information obtained from and within the PEA (see above) in addition to the following:

  • an assessment of whether the important ecological features on site and within the ecological zone of influence will be adversely impacted by the proposed project, with a description of these impacts
  • a consideration of all impacts that are likely to occur throughout the construction and operation of the development, including both direct and indirect effects
  • a clear and detailed description of the measures to avoid, mitigate, and compensate for ecological impacts as well as the provision of appropriate and suitable ecological enhancements. These measures should be explicit to the proposed development rather than generic recommendations.