Do you know how to identify and address the ecological constraints that may be present on your proposed development site in the easiest, quickest and most cost effective way possible?

Do you know what ecological information is needed to enable your planning application to be determined without incurring unnecessary and costly delays?

If not, then read on and find out how by using Five Valleys Ecology you can avoid many of the common pitfalls and concomitant delays and costs that can occur to development projects, and how we can add real value to your business.

The Completely Avoidable Problem!

We are often contacted after a planning proposal has been submitted and the Local Planning Authority (LPA) has either refused to validate the application due to a lack of ecological information, or simply requested that this information is supplied in order that the application can be determined.

It is not uncommon to be contacted at the end of the survey season when we then have the unenviable tasks of explaining that due to the seasonal survey windows for particular fauna and flora we are unable to conduct the necessary surveys until the following year!

Benefits Of Using Five Valleys Ecology

Aerial photograph of housing and surrounding farmland in the Cotswolds

The unanticipated and costly delays that this causes can be avoided by contacting Five Valleys Ecology for advice early on in the life cycle of the project. We can look at the nature of your proposal together with the development site and/or buildings proposed for demolition or alteration and provide advice on a suitable scope of work to address any ecological constraints.

Contacting Five Valleys Ecology for advice at an early stage in the project enables potential ecological constraints to be identified and any necessary field surveys to be undertaken in the shortest timescale possible. We are then able to use this information to work closely with you design team or architect to design out the ecological constraints and specify the required measures to fully integrate the ecology into your proposed development in the most cost effective and efficient way possible. Our approach ensures that as far as possible your development proposals meet your aspirations and/or the needs of your business without conflicting with the necessary protection of ecological resources.

Retaining and enhancing wildlife as an integral part of the proposal is not only necessary for legal and planning policy compliance; with appropriate marketing and sales messaging it can also add real value to the development as well as enabling the allocation of credits under BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) assessments. It can also be positive PR for your company and/or your clients, adding real value to your business through improved green credentials and ethical working practices.

Where Do I Start?

The starting point would typically be to undertake an Ecological Appraisal or Preliminary Bat Assessment. An Ecological Appraisal is suitable for proposals affecting areas of land as opposed to proposals solely affecting buildings or other types of built structures, such as the conversion of outbuildings or extensions to existing buildings. In these circumstances a Preliminary Bat Assessment will typically be more appropriate.

See below for a description of the overall purpose of Ecological Appraisals and Preliminary Bat Assessments, the methodologies used and deliverables.

Ecological Appraisal

The overall purpose of an Ecological Appraisal is broadly to:

  • Identify any ecological constraints that may be present;
  • Specify any detailed surveys that may be required to investigate any ecological constraints further; and
  • Provide advice on preliminary mitigation, compensation and enhancement in accordance with planning policy and legislative requirements.

This is achieved through undertaking a survey of the site using the ‘extended’ Phase l survey methodology as recommended by Natural England [1]. A desk study entailing a data search with the local biological records centre for records of protected and notable fauna and flora within the vicinity of the site is undertaken. Various online resources are also used during the desk study.

Once sufficient baseline data has been obtained this is summarised in a full report for planning setting out ecological issues and opportunities, making reference to policy, guidance and legislation, where relevant. A full colour habitat features plan is also included together with recommendations for any further survey work (if required), and preliminary mitigation.

Further details on Ecological Appraisals can be found on our website here.

[1] Joint Nature Conservation Committee, 2010. Handbook for Phase 1 Habitat Survey – a Technique for Environmental Audit. JNCC, Peterborough.

Preliminary Bat Assessment

A Preliminary Bat Assessment is typically required where a proposed development will solely affect existing buildings or other types of built structures with potential to support roosting bats (and breeding birds).

The overall purpose of a Preliminary Bat Assessment is to:

  • Identify the presence of bats themselves or evidence of presence such as droppings or staining from urine or fur oil;
  • Identify potential roost sites, such as crevices and voids, particularly those that cannot be easily searched during the day together with potential access points in the fabric of the building, so that these can be investigated further during evening emergence or dawn re-entry surveys;
  • Identify any evidence of past or present usage of the buildings by nesting birds, including Barn Owl Tyto alba; and
  • Provide advice on preliminary mitigation, compensation and enhancement in accordance with planning policy and legislative requirements.

This is achieved through undertaking a survey entailing external and internal searches of the buildings or other built structures that will be affected by the proposal by a suitably experienced and licenced ecologist in accordance with best practice guidance published by the Bat Conservation Trust [2]. The surrounding habitat is also assessed in terms of its potential to support foraging, roosting and commuting bats. The survey is further informed by a data trawl for bat records within the vicinity of the site using online resources, the local biological records centre or county bat recorder, as appropriate.

The building searches involve the use of ladders, torches, and video endoscopes to identify roosts or features that could be used as roosts. Infa-red thermometers and laser distance measurers are also used to capture surface temperatures and dimensions from within the buildings for roost characterisation purposes.

Once surveys are complete, a full report is prepared for planning in draft with outline mitigation requirements, if required, together with legal and policy implications. Recommendations for any further survey work, if any, is also provided.

[2] Hundt, L., 2012. Bat Surveys: Good Practice Guidelines. 2nd edition. Bat Conservation Trust, London.

What Do I Need To Do Right Now?

We can support you and your business with professional ecological surveys and reports for planning applications and for legal compliance.

Call Tim Smith on 01453 759306 (M:07732 397984) or email us to arrange a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your site and requirements in more detail.