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Why Choose Arbtech?

Arbtech are the best asset you can possibly have when you need ecology or tree surveys to help you obtain planning permission.

Preliminary ecological appraisal survey and report in Bristol

If you think you need an ecology survey in Bristol, then read on. We offer a super fast and efficient service to help support your planning application.

In 2020, Bristol declared an ecological emergency. In fact, they were the first UK city to do so. As a result of this declaration, the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy was developed as a collaborative effort involving over 30 local organisations. In a nutshell, this strategy aims to reverse the decline in the local wildlife and rejuvenate the environment and habitats upon which they depend. 

It follows that such a bold pledge will have implications on the course of planning and development in the city for the foreseeable future. Bristol boasts extensive biodiversity and this is largely due to the city’s geology. Specifically, the range of sedimentary rocks that lend themselves to habitat creation. In terms of plants and animals, Bristol and the surrounding countryside are home to unique species like the Bristol onion and endangered birds such as the Peregrine falcon. As you’d expect, the local authorities and planning departments are keen to do everything they can to preserve this biodiversity for future generations to enjoy. 

The protection and preservation of ecological features has evidently factored into a number of recent decisions to decline planning permission. Notably, a development at The Nurseries in New Passage Road which was rejected in part because of the negative impact it would have on the greenbelt. Another example was a 96-metre jetty on the River Avon New Cut, which was turned down due to both a lack of information in the planning application and the harm it could cause to heritage and conservation areas.

That said, ecological considerations are not an insurmountable hurdle. Numerous developments, small and large, are either planned or in progress in the city centre and further afield. The Bristol local plan is currently under review and due to be adopted in 2023. However, draft site allocations were made in 2019 and the range of (potential) development opportunities is outstanding, showing a clear commitment to environmentally friendly growth. 

Ecology consultants and planning applications

If your development proposal is likely to have any impact on locally important or legally protected species and habitats (however small), it’s in your interest to invest in a report known as a preliminary ecological appraisal, or PEA. If you don’t, and the planning Case Officer determines that your development will puts species or habitats on or near your site at risk, the chances of you being granted a planning consent are slim to none. 

Bristol City Council and the other local authorities in Avon aren’t looking for a spurious reason to refuse you planning permission. For context, the government has set a target for some 110,000 new homes to be built in the Avon region over the next 20 years. However, they are looking to balance any proposed development with the impact it has on the environment. In the long term, this works in everyone’s favour because when homes and infrastructure are built with nature in mind, further investment tends to follow. People tend to want to live in clean, green spaces with diverse wildlife. Jobs and further development then follow leading to an increase in the value of land and property prices.

Essentially, the local planning department is looking to see that you have taken the local flora and fauna into consideration in your planning application. Amongst other things, you’ll need to explain what you’re going to do to protect or re-create priority habitats and justify the loss of lower quality habitats.

This all starts with a basline assessment

There are, of course, many different types of ecology survey but for simplicity, let’s look at a Phase 1 Habitat Survey (suitable for most sites and developments). It’s worth noting that these days, this type of report is perfectly valid, but more commonly referred to as a “preliminary ecological appraisal”. It’s more or less the same thing. The former uses the JNCC habitat classification system and the latter is defined in more detail but he British Standard 42020 – Biodiversity: Code of practice for planning and development.

The process is relatively straightforward. Firstly, your surveyor will visit your site, identify and document every species of plant or animal present. Once they’ve done that they’ll map the potential or actual habitats they’ve discovered and grade them from using a simple system. 

This grading will determine the degree of justification and/or mitigation your planning Case Officer will need if your development will disrupt a habitat. In some cases, usually where there is a high risk of significant habitat disruption further, more specific, surveys will be required. However, where minimal or no potential habitat disruption is identified the report itself will usually satisfy the planning department without further need for input from an ecologist.

This work is often an unexpected and unwelcome expense. But the costs of not doing it can be very steep indeed both financially and in lost time—your application could be refused, and if that happens out of season to identify whatever species you’ve been asked for, you may have to wait until the following year before you can resubmit.

If you doconduct a survey, your application will include the information the Planning Officer needs, along with robust justification for any ecological disruption. Naturally, this will greatly increase the chance of your development being granted planning consent.

Speaking of planning permission, we have secured hundreds of planning consents and may have left us 5 star reviews on our own site, as well as and Trust Pilot. 

Here’s how Arbtech helped…

We only use local experts, employed directly by us so your project will never be handed off to a subcontractor. 

This means we can guarantee that your ecologist will come to your site equipped with an exhaustive understanding of the local ecology and an excellent relationship with both the district and county planning departments. They’ll also be well aware of the local interest groups that object to planning applications as a matter of course. 

Arbtech operates on a national scale, so has the resources and infrastructure to ensure that your ecology survey is completed to an exceptional standard, fast. In essence, you’re getting all the benefits of a niche practice, with the reach and authority of a national operator. 

We’re only concerned with getting clients through planning and it’s all we’ve done for over a decade. At this point, we’ve seen pretty much every planning problem related to protected species and habitats that you can think of, and have found the solution. 


Avon Wildlife Trust. N.D. Wildlife, Planning and Development. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 January 2021]

Bristol City Council. 2019. Local Plan review: Annex- Draft Development Allocations. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 January 2021]

Bristol City Council. N.D. City Centre developments. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 January 2021]

Bristol City Council. N.D. Local Plan review. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 January 2021]

Bristol City Council. N.D. The Bristol Biodiversity Action Plan. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 January 2021]

Bristol Green Capital Partnership. 2020. Bristol publishes roadmap for tackling ecological emergency. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 January 2021]

Cameron, A. Sumner, S. Postans, A. 2020. The region’s 14 most controversial planning applications that were thrown out. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 January 2021]

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