Although it is far from competing with the Highlands in Scotland, Gwynedd in Wales or Shropshire in England as a supremely biodiverse location, London contains more than enough reason to be rightfully labelled a green city. For instance, more than 880,000 trees and 14,000 different species of animals, plants and fungi occupy the City of London and the wider Greater London area.
The London Priority Species List (LPSL) consists of 243 species across 18 categories, including barn owls, bats, breeding birds and wintering birds, brown hares, dormice, great crested newts, harvest mice, house sparrows, little egrets, peregrine falcons, and cetti’s warblers and reed warblers. Part of the reason that London has so many protected species is that the climate caters to them, particularly the fact that 18% of the land area is covered by an estimated 3,000 parks and open spaces.
Certain species such as those listed in the LPSL are highlighted due to featuring within UK legislation. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 support protected species by preventing harm from coming to them, especially during unavoidably disruptive practices such as property and land development projects.
It is the role of the local authorities to ensure compliance to planning requirements, and without evidence that they have been followed accordingly, the planning department of the local council will be left with no option but to deny applications for planning permission. With this in mind, developers should consider the likelihood of ecological assets on their development site, get in touch with an ecological consultancy for the necessary ecological surveys, and receive help on securing a planning condition.
Notable Species and the Impact on Development Proposals
Any proposed development site is susceptible to the occupancy of rare or valuable plants and animals. While a greenfield plot of land with no previous intervention or infrastructure would act as a suitable location for various habitat, an existing building could also house new habitat if it suits the needs of the plant or animal species in question. Due to this factor alone, protected species can appear in any setting and cause ecological issues to new developments on both land and properties.
Rare animals and plants are likely to be impacted by a proposed development project, as the planned works can infringe on their habitats or cause general disturbance, even from a distance. The local authorities enforce rules that aim to prevent unnecessary harm to the natural environment, and as disregarding corresponding legislation will hinder the planning process and derail planning applications, it is vital that developers are aware of any and all ecological considerations.
Multiple organisations assist the government on safeguarding listed animals and plants, including Natural England / Natural Resources Wales, the Environment Agency and countless responsible bodies that focus solely on certain species. As well as abiding by ongoing statutes regarding nature conservation, the number of ecological services needed by developers is growing. For example, achieving biodiversity net gain (BNG) has emerged as a mandatory consideration that involves boosting a site’s ecological value by a minimum 10% increase.
British Standard Ecology Surveys
Over the course of a site visit, ecological consultants can undertake a type of survey that suits the development plans and site. On a plot of land with uncertainty surrounding potential animals and plants, however, the advised ecology survey work would consist of an initial survey known as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA). Sometimes otherwise referred to as an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, PEA surveys in essence involve an ecological surveyor analysing all parts of the site for indications of invasive or valuable plants or animals.
Once the baseline ecological surveys have concluded that a listed animal or plant has been identified or even suspected on the development site, the ecologist will recommend further survey work in order to instruct suitable management plans and provide mitigation measures in accordance with the species. Further surveys for animals could involve anything from protected species surveys on water voles to white clawed crayfish, with the common forms of protected species survey including bat surveys, barn owl surveys, and reptile surveys.
In terms of plants, protected species surveys could be conducted for anything from Himalayan balsam to Japanese knotweed. A site survey could also prompt the necessity of other ecological surveys and environmental services, such as an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) if the planning project is likely to significantly affect the local area and biodiversity value, or BREEAM assessments if it is a public sector development with question marks over factors regarding sustainability. Other habitat surveys may be needed as additional stages to protected species surveys if the local planning authorities request further information, such as an Environmental DNA (eDNA) survey if the findings from great crested newt surveys don’t suffice in isolation.
After all forms of ecology surveys – including a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) and any habitat survey – the ecological surveyor will assemble an ecology report. Within it, all aspects of the ecology survey will be detailed at length, including potential ecological issues, evidence from the prior desk study into occupancy of animals and plants in the area, mitigation measures that will confirm the safety of protected species such as the habitat creation of new habitats inside or outside of the site, and any other information that will assist on a planning application put forward to the planning officer of the local authority.
Allow Us to Recommend an Ecological Consultancy
Before risking issues with the local council, endangering protected species and putting your planning application into uncertainty, it would be wise to reach out to one of the country’s many ecological consultancies. An expert can then oversee the ecology surveys you need to meet the requirements of your local planning authority and successfully achieve a planning application for your development.
In our time, we have worked with countless professionals, including recent projects with commercial clients, construction companies and planning consultants, for example. From the variety of different work, we have grown high-level relationships with numerous service providers, including a leading ecological consultancy comprised of a dedicated team of ecologists.
Discuss Your Requirements with Our Ecology Team
As the cost of each ecology survey varies and the specifications of a site and project will alter the price of environmental services, clients are advised to supply us with your details by filling out a quote form or visiting our contact page, and we can then put together a cost effective free quote for your consideration.
You will then receive your no-obligation quote based on competitive prices, and between your availability and the certain times where the ecology surveys in question can be undertaken, we will decide a date for the friendly team of the ecological consultancy to attend your site, conduct the ecological survey, and produce the ecology report you need to support your planning application.