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We offer a wide range of ecological surveys to assist you in meeting the requirements of your local council and ensure that you secure a successful planning application for your development proposal. Our ecology consultants are experts with years of experience, contributing heavily to a universal aim of providing a service of the quickest and highest quality, set at cost-effective prices for all clients.
Available in a variety of categories, ecology surveys are designed to satisfy a selection of different purposes. A common outcome from ecological assessments, however, is that the evidence from an inspection contributes to the local planning authority accepting applications for planning permission.
Following more than a decade of supplying clients up and down the country with ecological surveys, our development project team has seen and solved just about every issue possible relating to ecological features, protected species of animals and plants, planning applications and the development process.
Ecological Survey and Assessment
In any form of ecological survey, a trained ecologist will look around the entirety of the site, making notes of important habitats and species found in the area at the time of the assessment. An ecology surveyor can identify any potential constraints caused by protected species on-site and – based on these factors – ensure that development proposals are not delayed as a result of them.
The ecology consultant will then use a mitigation hierarchy to decide on the best course of action for any and all existing habitats and ecological conditions present. Ranging from the most desirable outcome to the least desirable outcome, the priority will be avoidance, allowing the qualified ecologist to retain habitats by avoiding harm coming to them. If that isn’t possible, the second best option would be to minimise harm to valuable features by altering the plans of the proposed development.
Known as restoration or rehabilitation, the third option will involve the ecological surveyor altering part of the site back to its original condition, causing an increase in biodiversity quality to make up for any value lost as a result of the development plans. The last resort in the mitigation hierarchy consists of exercises in offsetting that will compensate for biodiversity losses by initiating the creation of new habitats and natural assets outside of the proposed development site.
As a final stage in the surveying process, the ecological consultant will write up a report to detail their findings from the ecology survey. Featuring observations about the site, identified ecological features and recommendations of further survey work, the ecology report will give the local authorities everything needed to support planning applications.
Objectives of an Ecological Survey
From the perspective of an ecological consultant, there are several key considerations that they are required to follow in order to successfully complete any form of ecological assessment.
Duties of an ecologist during an ecology survey:
- Conduct a prior desk study for existing information on present animal and plant habitats.
- Undertake field surveys in person to identify present animal and plant habitats.
- Consider potential constraints to the development caused by animal and plant habitats.
- Determine whether further surveys are needed.
- Formulate appropriate mitigation and compensation measures to allow the development to go ahead despite the presence of animal or plant habitats.
- Develop a report as evidence that an ecology survey has taken place.
- Assist on any European protected species licence (EPSL) applications to Natural England / Natural Resources Wales that may be required.
- Guarantee that all UK legislation, planning requirements, regulator guidelines, environmental policies and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) are followed accordingly.
Importance of an Ecological Survey
The role of an ecological survey is an important one in any property or land development for a number of reasons. At a baseline level, it is a fundamental component due to the fact that, by arranging the necessary survey work, developers can satisfy the planning policies of the local authority in relation to nature conservation, sufficiently meeting the minimum requirement needed to trigger a successful planning application.
Through planning an assessment in the first stage of a proposed development, you can reap the benefits of addressing the environmental impact of your development project and eliminate ecological issues early in the process. Once specific habitats are identified during assessments undertaken at optimal periods, you can follow the necessary protocol, invest in the insight of trained ecologists and show full transparency to your local authority.
Protected species of animal are of particular concern, with certain pieces of legislation such as the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2019, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 lawfully safeguarding them. Listed protected species include badgers, barn owls, bats, birds, dormice, invertebrates, fish, great crested newts, natterjack toads, otters, reptiles, water voles and white-clawed crayfish, as well as numerous valuable or rare plants.
Additionally, an ecology assessment will contribute to setting the framework in place for achieving biodiversity net gain (BNG) on the site. Brought into UK law in November 2021 as part of the Environment Act (formerly the Environment Bill), BNG is a planning policy that insists upon a 10% minimum increase to biodiversity quality post-development compared to pre-development. While it is yet to become mandatory until the year 2023, many local planning authorities are already enforcing the policy, meaning developers are often advised to adhere to it ahead of the nationwide rollout.
Ecology Surveys for Planning
A factor that has been and will continue to be relevant in planning, ecology assessments allow for an ecological consultancy to analyse the entirety of a proposed development site before making pivotal decisions based on plant and animal species on or directly adjacent to the specific plot of land.
It also bridges the gap between developers and their obligations to ecological and environmental management. Local authorities insist on holding binding environmental targets, and it is the duty of the developer to show appreciation and adherence to the ecological impact their development could have on rare, valuable or delicate protected habitats.
Ecological Surveys for Developers
While it is down to the developer to arrange an ecology survey on the site, by doing so, ecological consultants with the necessary expertise can then manage the assessment process to ensure that the inspection and any required additional surveys are conducted correctly.
All protected species on the site can then be found and any issues caused by the development to them or the nearby natural environment can be addressed accordingly. Under the correct guidance, you should have no issue in avoiding any breach of legislation and pass the barriers preventing you from progressing your project into future stages.
Ecological Surveys for Planning Applications
Although developers are required to meet certain criteria set by the local planning authority, doing so will also contribute heavily to the process of gaining planning permission. As such, developers benefit from ecology surveys in multiple ways, and even if it transpires that no rare or valuable habitats are present on the site, at least an ecology consultant will be able to confirm this to the local authority.
The ecology report will feature all of the information needed to satisfy the planning department of the local council, leading to evidence that no reason prevents the planning officer from granting a planning application on the site. Providing the necessary surveys are undertaken and a sufficiently capable ecological consultancy is chosen to lead them, they should have no problem with getting the green light for planning consent.
For more information on our ecological services and the approach we take towards catering to clients, the section below offers further detail on ecology surveys.
Types of Ecological Survey
There are different types of assessment to suit an array of purposes. The most common type of ecology survey, however, is a Preliminary Ecology Appraisal (PEA) / Phase 1 Habitat Survey. Ecological consultants will use a Phase 1 Habitat Survey as an opportunity to carry out a desk study and inspect the entirety of a proposed site for all ecological and environmental factors present.
A baseline survey, the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal will then prompt the need for further surveys if ecological features such as protected species of animal or valuable or invasive plant species are found. Alternatively, a developer can opt for an Ecological Walkover Survey instead. A different form of ecology survey, an Ecological Walkover Survey provides supporting information to ensure adherence to laws surrounding protected species of flora and fauna and can be arranged even after securing a planning condition.
Split between broader ecology surveys and assessments for animals and plants, our list of ecological services includes:
- Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Assessments
- BREEAM Assessments
- Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA)
- Ecological Walkover Surveys
- Habitat Regulations Assessment
- Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys
Protected Species Surveys
- Badger Surveys
- Barn Owl Surveys
- Bat Surveys
- Bird Surveys
- Dormouse Surveys
- Great Crested Newt Surveys
- Otter Surveys
- Reptile Surveys
- Water Vole Surveys
Invasive Species Surveys / Vegetation Surveys
- Giant Hogweed Surveys
- Himalayan Balsam Surveys
- Injurious Weed Surveys
- Japanese Knotweed Surveys
- National Vegetation Classification (NVC) Surveys
- Problematic Species Audit
- Problematic Species Management Plans
Ecological Survey Methods
Each type of assessment will be carried out in a different way, causing any number of techniques and considerations, and leading to a variety of outcomes based on the original purpose of the survey. As a result, explaining the methodology behind ecological surveys in general won’t necessarily apply to all assessments we provide.
That said, ecology surveys generally play out across the following stages:
- As the first step in the surveying process, a desk study on the site will uncover any existing information about the plot of land and areas adjacent to it, particularly focusing on known occupancy of protected species.
- A digital image of the site will be produced using a geographical information system (GIS) to ensure accuracy, with any factors retrieved from the desk based research integrated into the image.
- Ecological consultants will attend the site and undertake surveys, basing their approach, methodology and priorities on the aims of the survey.
- With all of the information about the site recorded, further data retrieved prior to the assessment, and applicable mitigation measures developed immediately after, the ecological surveyor will create a report as proof that a survey has been completed on the site.
Ecological Survey Equipment
In any instance, ecological surveyors will use the same equipment, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), clipboards and pens for making notes, bags for collecting droppings and other evidence, gloves for handling items on the site, and site plans for understanding the dimensions of the specific plot of land.
A set of ladders would be needed if trees, lofts or other high up areas need to be inspected, or a set of binoculars for looking over a particularly large plot of land, as well as more advanced equipment if applicable, such as anemometers, endoscopes, reference books and survey sheets.
Other pieces of equipment may be used based on the type of assessment. For example, if the EcIA report from an Ecological Impact Assessment prompts the need for a National Vegetation Classification (NVC), a smartphone would be needed for access to an ordnance map, and if a newt survey calls for an environmental DNA (eDNA) assessment, the ecologist would need waders and wellies for navigating through ponds and an eDNA kit.
Ecological Survey Calendar
Due to the behaviours and habitats of native animals, protected species surveys staged in England and Wales cannot necessary be carried out throughout the year. Instead, there are certain times in the year where each protected species survey can be conducted, including an optimal time that will be desirable in the eyes of the ecological surveyor.
An essential part of booking a site survey involves planning ahead, identifying the best time for the ecology survey, securing a slot, and making sure it works within the schedule of your development plans. The majority of assessments are out of service during winter months, with bats and breeding birds creating roosting sites on cave-like spaces and complex tree structures or forming suitable habitat types within applicable properties over this period.
In order to avoid costly delays to your proposed development project and determine suitable ecological mitigation measures for the particular species on your site in a timely manner, it would be advisable to arrange an initial survey as early as possible and refer to our ecology survey calendar to plan ahead for further surveys and further action needed.
Our Ecological Survey Team
Recognised as a trustworthy and high-quality ecological consultancy, Arbtech has a proven record for meeting the needs of clients, operating in accordance with relevant legislation and working towards guaranteed planning success. With all bases covered, we can support protected species and priority habitats in a way that allows a development to continue despite the presence of protected species and other ecological assets.
All of the ecological surveyors in our team are registered in England and qualified to bachelor’s or master’s degree level. We pride ourselves on only hiring professionals with sufficient licensing and training, as well as the correct attitude and personality traits. Based on their qualifications and experience, they will carry the necessary insight and expertise of priority habitats, notable species and the important factors that play a role in achieving a successful planning application.
Ecological Survey Reviews
Following years of conducting surveys to clients across the country, we possess hundreds of positive reviews from happy customers, including the example below:
Get Started With Your Ecology Survey
Either you are aware of protected species of animal or plant on your site, you have been told by your local council to reach out to an ecological consultancy, or you simply want to eliminate the likelihood of any issues in your development in the process of putting forward an application for planning permission.
Whatever the circumstance, our team would be happy to offer you support. Before you begin the process, you may be interested to learn more about how we guarantee ecology consultants local to you, what factors go into the cost of our surveys, and which options are available for requesting a quote.
Ecology Survey Near Me
Unlike many ecological consultancies that solely cover a certain area, Arbtech offers coverage to the entirety of the country. In an effort to cater to the needs of all clients regardless of location, our ecology consultants have been strategically situated in different parts of the UK.
With professionals allocated to the North West, North East, West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, South West, South East and London, we can guarantee ecological surveyors in all parts of England, as well as sections of Wales, Scotland and additional areas upon request.
Ecology Survey Cost
Before arranging an ecology survey, our team will take on board information in regards to the client’s site and project, and create a bespoke quote based on these details. Using this approach, we strive to make each quotation fair for every client, eliminating any likelihood of overcharging.
The alternative would be to create a universal price for every ecology survey, meaning that clients undertaking simple regeneration projects on small plots of land would pay the same as clients conducting advanced new developments involving changing land use on large plots of land.
Instead, every client is given an opportunity to see a quote for an ecology survey on their site that matches their specifications. By doing this, we can subsidise the cost of an assessment, helped by simultaneously cutting the cost of surveyor expenses through having them located in every part of the country.
Booking an Ecology Survey
If you need ecology survey work as part of your development to remove ecological constraints or show consideration to environmental impact as part of the application for planning consent, we can help with an applicable assessment during a site visit, all carried out by our capable and reliable ecological surveyors.
All we need is for you to provide information in the form of the specifications of your site and project, enabling us to judge the suitable ecology survey and price up an estimation accordingly. To do this, contact us over the phone or by filling out an online quote form, and we can then send you a free quote that matches your details and the purpose of the assessment.
We operate across England and Wales throughout the year, and based on the outcome of the ecology survey, we can suggest further surveys such as Ecological Impact Assessments or protected species surveys. Regardless of the outcome, we will satisfy every requirement and ensure that all planning applications are given the same level of attention until deemed successful.