If you want to develop land or property in Bangor, North Wales, you will probably need to submit an ecology survey with your planning application.
An ecology survey will assess your site’s individual ecological characteristics and identify any issues that you may be able to resolve, helping your scheme proceed.
Bangor in North Wales
Bangor city stands on the coastline near the Menai Strait. The city has many green spaces, and with Snowdonia National Park and Anglesey close by, not surprisingly there are several sensitive areas in the locality that are covered by environmental designations, especially around the coast.
Bangor City Council and Gwynedd Council aim to protect the environment while overseeing economic expansion and house building. The strategy is to encourage development of the city centre to keep it vibrant, create workspaces and develop the Hirael Bay waterfront to improve flood defences along with tree planting and public amenities.
Bangor is included in the Anglesey and Gwynedd Joint Local Development Plan 2011-2026, which aims to protect and improve the natural environment, habitats and species in the area. However, this doesn’t mean the Plan is anti-development: its vision includes increasing the supply of housing, building a better range of housing and satisfying demand for employment land and buildings. The focus is on making the best use of brownfield sites and vacant buildings. The Plan also aims to improve and manage all year-round tourism provision sustainably.
What are ecological surveys?
Ecological surveys involve a proposed development site being assessed by an ecology consultant to establish what effect the scheme would have on the environment. The survey will identify any protected species present and note all ecological constraints on the site.
Why do I need an ecology survey?
To be successful with your planning application, your scheme must meet the local authority’s minimum requirements, and ecological surveys are usually required as part of the planning process. The Environment Act 2021 means that planning applications must demonstrate how a site can achieve a 10% minimum increase in Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) post-development compared to its pre-development state. Ecological surveys include information that can be used to calculate how BNG will be achieved on your site.
Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)
The first survey to arrange is a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)/Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey. It can be a good idea to submit a PEA survey to your local authority early on to prevent planning officers from refusing your application on grounds of insufficient evidence, leading to delays. Any environmental constraints on your site will be shown on the PEA which will also recommend mitigation measures to safeguard wildlife and establish whether further surveys are needed.
The survey will be carried out by an ecological consultant who will conduct a desk study followed by a site inspection. Any protected species of animal or plant present are recorded and the potential constraints they may cause are noted. The report will include proposed appropriate mitigation measures to allow your scheme to proceed, by use of a mitigation hierarchy.
The priority is to avoid damage to habitats, and the hierarchy ranges from the most desirable outcome to the least desirable. As a second-best option, your plan could be adjusted to minimise harm to ecological features, while the third option involves restoring the original condition of part of the site to create more biodiversity in compensation for any value lost due to the development. If none of these options are viable, the final one is offsetting, where new habitats are created off-site in compensation.
Ecological Impact Assessment
Depending on the PEA survey results, an Ecological Impact Assessment may be needed to calculate a scheme’s potential impact on the environment. Specific surveys such as bat surveys or great crested newt surveys might need to be carried out by ecological consultants.
European Protected Species Licence (EPSL)
If evidence of protected species is found on your site you may need an EPSL which will grant the licensee permission to carry out activities that would otherwise be illegal, such as disturbing or destroying their habitat. Planning permission must be obtained before an EPSL can be applied for, and to qualify for a license, three tests must be met:
- a lack of satisfactory alternatives.
- overriding public interest such as health and safety issues.
- population maintenance meeting favourable conservation status.
Licences must be applied for from a Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation such as Natural England, Natural Resource Wales, or Scottish Natural Heritage.
Protected species surveys
Protected species surveys include badger surveys, barn owl surveys, reptile surveys, surveys for water voles, bat surveys, dormouse surveys, great crested newt surveys and otter surveys. A raft of legislation protects protected species including the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2019, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Ecological Walkover Survey
This survey involves ecological consultants recording the plants, animals and habitat on the site, and providing information to clarify whether laws surrounding protected species are being adhered to. This survey can be carried out even after planning permission is obtained.
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) assessment
BNG is a planning policy requirement that states that the biodiversity of an area must be improved by at least 10% following development. How this is to be achieved must be made clear in pre-development plans. A BNG assessment will calculate the best way to retain important habitats and avoid biodiversity loss.
Invasive species survey
This identifies problematic species such as Japanese knotweed, giant Hogweed, Himalayan balsam and injurious weeds.
Here, a building’s level of sustainability and environmental performance is assessed.
Habitat Regulations Assessment
This is an assessment of whether a development scheme could affect the conservation management or quality of a European site protected by Habitat Regulations.
Timing your ecological survey
Ecological surveys and protected species surveys cannot be carried out all year round, making it important to arrange them in good time to tie in with your development plans.
Find an ecological consultancy in Bangor
Firstly, identify a consultancy with experience in meeting your local planning authority’s requirements. Make sure that the ecological consultants are licensed and hold the relevant qualifications and they will be able to give expert advice and information on the surveys you need.