Ecology Consultants in Swindon – Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and Habitat Surveys for Swindon Borough Council
Developing a site or demolishing a building in Swindon? You might need an ecology survey to get planning permission.
Swindon boasts broad biodiversity, including a variety of protected species. From Great Crested Newts, to Grass Snakes, to reptiles like Adders and Slow Worms. You can find any of these species and many more in locations that range from the obvious (grasslands and woodlands) to the obscure (wasteland and other urbanised environments). The local authority will also be concerned with the plant life on and around your site. Not only because of the habitat it affords wildlife, but also because it is of great value itself.
The local authority is eager to protect, and indeed, enhance Swindon’s biodiversity. The local plan is explicit in its commitment to preventing unnecessary ecological harm and enhancing biodiversity where possible. Their commitment goes further than simply limiting damage – there is a general expectation that all development, where appropriate and when possible, should deliver a net gain in biodiversity. These provisions will probably be further strengthened by the incoming Environment Bill 2020 that will likely codify biodiversity net gain into law.
This is why if your scheme will involve disturbing, damaging, or destroying ecological features, it’s vital to commission an ecology survey. If you don’t your planning application could be refused.
How an ecology report helps you get planning permission
Essentially, an ecology survey adds weight to the claim that your development is balanced against the needs of the environment and community. One such habitat survey allowed a developer to submit a report to the local authority that indicated their site near Wanborough Road was not ecologically sensitive, supporting their bid to build nearly 400 new homes.
Another development, this time on Piper’s Way, was given planning permission for 70 homes after submitting a biodiversity plan. It detailed how the scheme would, amongst other things, protect badgers and hedgehogs from getting trapped in open trenches during construction works.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the measures to protect the environment and development aren’t mutually exclusive.
In the long term, the idea is that we’ll all benefit. Healthy natural environments rich in biodiversity are almost universally attractive places to live. In turn, this draws investment from businesses, boosting the economy and the value of the land.
Ultimately, Planners want to grant planning consent for sensible, sustainable developments. Your ecology survey will give them the evidence they need to defend their decision to give your scheme planning.
But do I need an ecology survey?
If the local authority has asked you for one, yes.
But if you’re not sure, there will be a firm “yes” or “no” answer to this question. However, the only body competent to give you that answer is your local planning authority. The best thing to do is get in touch with them as soon as possible so that you can get the advice you need and avoid costly delays to your development schedule.
We can say that certain features should get you thinking about ecology. If your site is near a waterway like the River Ray, or a green space like Coate Water Country Park; the likelihood of you encountering protected species or plants increases substantially. Surprisingly, industrialised areas can also host all manner of rare flora and fauna. One local small business found this out when their first planning application to convert their workshops was turned down due to the potential ecological impact. They did eventually get planning permission, but only after getting an ecology survey.
All the more reason to seek the advice of an expert ecological consultant as soon as possible.
The ecological and habitat survey process
The term “ecology survey” covers a broad range of surveys and reports. However, there’s one that’s suitable for most sites and developments – the Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey (you might have heard this survey called a preliminary ecological appraisal).
This survey is, in effect, a scoping exercise. A licenced ecologist will come to your site and index anything of value. By default, this confirms the absence of anything else. Consequently, you won’t need to get further surveys unless they’re absolutely necessary. Meaning that, sometimes, this survey and report is enough to satisfy the local authority. This is likely to be the case where habitats are minimal, and there is no evidence for the presence of protected species.
However, the local planning authority’s ecologist may ask you for further surveys if valuable flora and/or fauna arefound or there are rich habitats on your site.
What if I don’t get an ecology survey?
Some consider ecology surveys an unwelcome inconvenience. However, if you go ahead with your development anyway and even so much as disturb protected ecological features or wildlife, you risk serious, criminal consequences. There’s a veritable library of legislation in place to protect the environment, and sanctions for offences range from the severe to the profound and include unlimited fines and prison sentences in extreme cases.
It’s not a risk worth taking, either.
Because if you choose Arbtech, we guarantee that our ecology report and advice will get you planning permission.
How do we know?
As of 2021, our ecology surveys have helped secure planning permission for around 15,000 people.
Hundreds of them in Swindon alone.
We’re so confident that if you don’t get planning (don’t worry, you will), we’ll give you your money back.
Swindon Ecological Consultants
Choose us, and your survey will be conducted by a local expert.
They’ll have a peerless understanding of Swindon’s unique ecological features and local planning policies. Both are critical factors in ensuring the success of your planning application.
Better yet, our 30+ strong team of ecology consultants only conduct ecology surveys for planning permission.
If it isn’t to do with planning, they don’t touch it.
Therefore, you can be sure that the surveyor who arrives at your site is 100% focused on getting you through planning and has the expertise to make that happen, first time.
Focusing exclusively on solving ecology-related planning problems and our use of local experts (all employed by us – no subcontractors!) brings one more benefit…
The last thing we want is for your development to get held up because you’re waiting for an ecology survey.
Go with Arbtech’s ecologists, and you’ll be waiting three to four days for your completed survey and report at most.
Not fast enough?
Then talk to us about investing in a next working day report or weekend survey.
Ecology surveys you can trust from local Swindon Ecologists
If you need an ecology survey that contains all the advice you need to get planning permission – choose Arbtech.
Swindon Advertiser. 2019. New development’s wildlife protection plan agreed. [Online]. Available from: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/17755329.new-developments-wildlife-protection-plan-agreed/ (Accessed 19th February 2021)
Swindon Borough Council. 2007. Nature Conservation: Swindon Borough Council Development Control Guidance Note. [Online]. Available from: https://www.swindon.gov.uk/downloads/file/5194/nature_conservation_development_control_guidance_note(Accessed 19th February 2021)
Swindon Borough Council. 2015. Swindon Borough Local Plan 2026. [Online]. Available from: https://www.swindon.gov.uk/downloads/file/3988/swindon_borough_local_plan_2026 (Accessed 19th February 2021)
Thomas, A. 2020. Ecological factors not seen as barrier to 400 New Eastern Villages homes plan at Lotmead. [Online]. Available from: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/18841804.ecological-factors-not-seen-barrier-400-new-eastern-villages-homes-plan-lotmead/ (Accessed 19th February 2021)
Thomas, A. 2020. Plan to replace workshops with houses at South Marston farm approved. [Online]. Available from: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/18865509.plan-replace-workshops-houses-south-marston-farm-approved/ (Accessed 19th February 2021)