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Ecology shouldn’t be an afterthought!

Friday, October 27, 2017

The ecology of a site can often be forgotten about in the planning of a development until it is late on in the process. Early consideration and correct timing can result in faster acceptance of planning applications.

It is extremely important to understand how ecology contributes to the planning process and to ensure that there is enough time to carry out ecological surveys in the optimal seasons. Considering the implications of development work to wildlife and the environment, and relevant wildlife legislation, is a necessity so that a development can go forward as planned. Many wildlife surveys have to be undertaken with specific time constraints (often between March and September) due to behavioural patterns of certain animals. If surveys are done outside these constraints, the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation may not accept applications for wildlife licences.

In order to keep a project running on schedule, carrying out Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (PEAs) and Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRAs) for bats during the winter months can help to keep to timescales. In these surveys, any habitats present on site can be mapped and from this information, further surveys can be suggested. Often PEAs and/or PRAs are left until the end of the summer season and subsequent surveys are unable to be carried out until the following year, as most European Protected Species (EPS) are settling down to hibernate over the winter. By carrying out initial habitat surveys in the winter, it means the developer can be one step ahead.

Maintaining biodiversity of the site cannot only be important for conservation, but can also be highly beneficial for the client. Enhancing biodiversity can help to inform design, and “development quality” is looked upon favourably by local authorities, whilst contributing positively to local nature and people.

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