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Why do I need an Ecological Report?

The ecological report, also known as an ecological appraisal, forms a central part of your planning application. The impact your development will have on biodiversity will be scrutinised by the planning authority, as it is part of their statutory duty when considering if plans can be approved.

It is virtually impossible to run a project without at least some impact on the local biodiversity, whether this is in the short or long-term. An ecological appraisal will identify what impact your development is likely to have, and where those impacts can be reduced or eliminated.

Some planning consents require an improvement to the local biodiversity, and if this is the case for you, the ecological report will include suggestions for you and the planning authority to consider.

The ecological report is also an opportunity to identify any protected species on, or likely to be on, your site. This means your plans can make allowance for the necessary laws and regulations from the start.

When should I arrange an ecological appraisal?

As soon as possible!

By getting an ecological expert involved in your project as early as you can, you can avoid obstacles later on. They can let you know about any biodiversity considerations, so you’ll know what protections and mitigations you’ll need from the start. Discovering these further into your project can slow down the planning process and mean you need to make major changes to your plans – which, of course, all means extra costs.

Certain projects, such as infrastructure plans or strategic masterplans, may also require an ecological appraisal in the earliest stages, if it’s deemed that an Environmental Impact Assessment will add value and support to an application.

While appraisals can be carried out all year around, the majority are done between March and September, when wildlife is at its most active. Appraisals carried out at other times of the year are still valuable, but may need extra surveys during the March-September period to confirm the findings.

What does an ecological appraisal include?

An ecological appraisal, in its broadest sense, is a first look at the biodiversity on and near your site. They can also be called a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA). However, there are no hard and fast rules about what these reports should include, and this can vary depending on the ecological consultant you work with.

Useful information includes:

  • Site survey mapping habitats such as hedgerows, trees, woodland, grassland and waterways, plus notable plant species
  • Historic records of the site which may indicate protected species or areas
  • Initial findings and suggestions of measures to protect or enhance the area’s wildlife
  • Report to submit to the Planning Authority to include a summary of the findings, options for compliance and enhancement, plus supporting evidence.

The initial appraisal may show that there is a need for more surveys, particularly if there is evidence of a protected species such as birds, bats or certain plants. You will need a licenced surveyor to carry out these surveys, and they may be limited to certain times of year due to when the particular species are active.

What can I expect to be highlighted in an ecological appraisal?

Each site is unique, with its own benefits and challenges. However, across the UK, there are similar factors.

Protected wildlife sites which will have their own, specific requirements, include:

  • County Wildlife Sites
  • Local Nature Reserves
  • National Nature Reserves
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Special Areas of Conservation
  • Specially Protected Areas

There are also some commonly found protected (and other) species across the UK, including badgers, bats, nesting birds, reptiles, and water voles.

Who should carry out my ecological appraisal?

While an ecological appraisal may seem simple on the surface, a qualified ecologist will have the skills to look beyond the surface and spot areas to consider which may not be obvious at first sight.

They will be used to going through historic site records, looking for evidence of protected species and applying relevant legislation. They can also offer advice for the duration of the project, not just for the initial assessment, making you aware of the best measures for reduction or mitigation of damage to biodiversity.

If you need further surveys, your ecologist may well hold the relevant licence themselves, or will know who to call on to get the surveys done accurately and legally.

To discuss how and when to carry out an ecological appraisal for your project, contact Engain on 01225 459564 or email enquiries@engain.com

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