A Practical Guide To Ecology Surveys And Planning Permission

Specific processes need to be followed before developing a new building. One of such processes is the procurement of planning permission. Before the planning permission is approved, an assessment of the proposed site is made for the existence of any protected species or habitats. A report on this is often requested before or after an application for planning permission is submitted to the local planning authority.

So, if you are planning any significant building, planning permission is required before work on the site can begin, and this often goes hand in hand with an ecological survey. This guide will cover how ecology surveys work, their importance and how protected species can impact planning permission.

First, you should know that planning permission applies to any of the following:

 The construction of a new building
 Making significant changes to an existing building
 Adding outbuildings on land

Adding extensive changes to an existing building or erecting a new one must pass through the local
authority to consider how such a project will affect the surrounding environment. The factors
considered include noise, impact on wildlife, blocking natural light, safety considerations, etc. 

Before you apply for planning permission, you will need to consider the impacts your building may
cause and how you will mitigate them should the approval be granted. Failure to address such issues
may result in your application being rejected.

How Does Ecology Impact A Planning Permission Application?
Over time, ecology has become one of the leading factors in building properties. This assesses the
impact your building will have on wildlife by identifying any existing species and how your building
work may affect them. The local authorities must protect the lives of extant species, so much
consideration is given to the ecological impact of building development.

There is legislation to protect certain species and habitats in the United Kingdom. This means that
many native plants and animals are legally protected in the UK. Examples are all bat species, otters,
great crested newts, etc. Planning permission for a new or existing building development cannot be
approved without an ecological survey. This implies that details of how habitat destruction will be
avoided, reduced or mitigated are needed for planning permission approval.

And although anyone can claim to be an ecologist, local planning authorities only accept
documentation provided by a licensed ecological surveyor, which is needed for the application for
planning permission. This implies that extensive and accurate environmental survey reports are a
must. Therefore, you must contact a licensed ecologist like ecologysurveys.uk for these services.
Failure to carry out an ecological survey or consider the impact of such development work on the
ecosystem can result in legal implications like heavy fines and prison sentences. This could also
result in the rejection of your planning permission applications.

Why Are Ecological Surveys Required?
Ecological surveys are carried out for habitats and species. These surveys are undertaken for many
reasons; however, when it comes to building development, the primary objective is to identify
potential constraints to a building development when it comes to the presence of important habitats
or species. Other goals include an evaluation of the nature conservation value of a site and the
impacts of the development on biodiversity.

So, when it comes to building development, there are three significant reasons for an ecological
1. A development requirement under the EIA Regulations
2. For the local planning authority to validate and assess a planning permission application.
3. To fulfil the obligations under UK wildlife law.

What Can Ecological Surveyors Do?

An ecology surveyor conducts desk and field surveys to identify the existence and potential presence
of a protected species or habitat. The finding is often presented as a report and covers the following:
 Whether a building project will threaten a habitat
 Information on any species or habitats found during the survey.
 The data discovered during the initial ecological inspection 
 A report on environmental impact assessment. How the building works may affect species or
habitats if any. 
 Provide mitigation strategies if evidence of species or habitat is found.
 Any legal or policy issues that affect the presence of such species.

This detailed report covers every aspect of ecological impact, written after the survey and given to
the local planning authorities.

What Happens If You Failed To Apply For Planning Permission?

Failure to apply for planning permission before starting a building project may have legal and
financial implications. If you proceed with building without first obtaining approved planning
permission, you will be tagged as carrying out a “planning breach”. For this, you could be given a
legal enforcement notice requiring you to demolish the structure, and failure to do so is illegal.
How Long Do Ecology Surveys Take?
The duration required for an ecological survey depends on the exact species survey being carried
out. This can also be influenced by the time of the year the survey is conducted. Some ecology
surveys take weeks, while some take months, as certain species need to be surveyed during a
specific time of the year. This delay can affect the planning application process, so conducting an
ecology survey as early as possible is essential.

What Is An Ecology Survey Validity?
The ecological surveys recommended by an ecological consultant are based on the 1995 Institute of
Environmental Management as well as the 2007 Institute of Ecology and Environmental
Management and other relevant organisations like Natural England and the Bat Conservation Trust.
Additionally, the ecological survey must be carried out according to guidelines on survey efforts on
protected species and by a licensed ecological surveyor.

Ecological surveys are sometimes a planning condition or draft planning condition for a planning
application. If the necessary government guidelines are correctly followed, the planning authority
will require all the relevant ecological information before granting planning permission for a building
project. The presence of a protected species on a building site doesn’t usually stop planning
permission from being given; however, it means that the necessary strategies are put in place to
protect and preserve them.