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Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Phase 1 Habitat Survey

A common survey for understanding ecological constraints on your site and ecological impacts in the planning process, an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey / Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) identifies all species of flora and fauna, and it helps to determine all potential impacts in and around your site boundary.

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Everything You Need to Know About The Phase 1 Habitat Survey

An Arbtech Habitat Survey

Phase 1 Habitat Survey

In a significant majority of circumstances, it can be advantageous for developers to harness an understanding of any and all potential ecological features on their site, particularly if they are currently unaware of them.

As a starting point in any development, an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey or Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) will provide crucial insights to developers, inform them on additional surveys needed on the site, bolster planning applications, and enable the planning process to move forwards.

What is a Phase 1 Habitat Survey?

Also known as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey is the baseline ecological assessment. It focuses primarily on comprehensively analysing a development site for the presence of plant species and animals of various habitat types at the earliest stage prior to any ecological features suffering disturbance from the project.

A form of scoping survey or environmental audit, an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey acts as the first survey in the assessment process and carries the aim of indexing anything of biodiversity value on the site, including wildlife habitats and plant species. Not only does this confirm the presence of ecological features on the site, but also the absence of everything else, eliminating potential ecological constraints and removing the need for further surveys.

Why do I Need a Phase 1 Habitat Survey?

Within the ODPM Circular 06/05 and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – central government legislation and planning policy documents that specifically deal with biodiversity and conservation – it is clearly stated that local planning officers are required to use the applicant’s consideration over the ecological enhancement and preservation of protected species of wildlife and plant life during the decision to grant or deny planning applications.

It is difficult to achieve this, however, without making the results of ecological surveys available as part of pre-application discussions. Through an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, you are able to demonstrate evidence of the policy in action, as well as an understanding of potential ecological constraints and support of plant species, protected species or pest species in your design process. Additionally, your local planning officer will be unable to reject the planning application on the grounds of insufficient evidence and must instead deliberate without delay.

Delivering a comprehensive report from a licensed and qualified ecological surveyor to your local planning authority will outline the risk to notable species of animal and plant on the site, provide advice for alterations that could cause less disturbance to ecological features, remove any concern of potential impacts on animal habitats and valuable plants, and simplify planning applications. Likewise, Phase 1 Habitat Surveys can highlight further information in the form of mitigation measures, ecological improvements to ecological features, and compensatory habitat enhancements that provide advice on ways to benefit your development.

a surveyor carrying out a phase 1 habitat survey
A surveyor indexing plant and animal species as part of a Phase 1 Habitat Survey on a development site.

Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

Using the Joint Nature Conservation Committee‘s ‘Handbook for Phase 1 Survey’, the Institute of Environmental Assessment‘s ‘Guidelines for Baseline Ecological Assessment’ and general guidance from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), ecologists in charge of assessments can ensure that all surveys are consistent and that the results are reliable.

As well as predetermined documents that act as universal guides to introduce participants into the process of carrying out an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey correctly, our ecological and environmental consultants also follow numerous methodological factors that guarantee dependable outcomes.

Examples of our Preliminary Ecological Appraisal methodology:

Phase 1 Habitat Survey Methodology

Study area: The maximum range covered across the site during the assessment often spans somewhere between 0.5 kilometres and 10 kilometres for the ecological desk study and up to 50 metres around the outside of the site boundary for the field study.

Desk study: Usually undertaken as the first survey stage, existing available information into designated sites and notable species will be collected online via the records of governing bodies, environmental management agencies and other reputable sources prior to the field study.

Field study: The physical site visit, the development site will be inspected and analysed, with a particular focus over certain valuable or invasive plant species, and close attention paid to specific protected species such as badgers, bats, dormice, great crested newts, invertebrates, nesting birds, otters, reptiles and water voles.

Reporting: Developed in the closing phase of the survey, a detailed report will be produced with survey information about the assessment, identified species of animal and plant, expert recommendations, and suggestions over necessary additional surveys all included.

A preliminary ecological appraisal

How to do a Phase 1 Habitat Survey

As indicated above, an assessment contains several core steps, starting at the quote stage. Once a quote has been requested, we will speak to you for the first time about your site and establish whether or not you need an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey. From the information you give us, we may even be able to move you directly onto the necessary protected species surveys based on habitats present on your site.

If a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal is needed, the process will be split into two main elements: an ecological desk study and a walkover survey. During the desk study, ecological and environmental consultants will collect site information, clarifying certain factors such as if the plot of land is listed as one of the UK’s many designated sites.

It will also act as an opportunity to look into wildlife and plant species records and information around habitats present such as species distribution and biological records data from a third party such as a records centre, wildlife trust, National Biodiversity Network, or other interest groups and not-for-profit organisations that hold data such as bat groups.

In the second phase of the assessment, the ecological surveyor will visit the site at the optimum time free of seasonal constraints to index every species of plant and animal habitats present on the site, as well as all protected species close to it. Based on their findings, the ecologist will produce a habitat map containing standardised designations for various habitat types and details of specific areas of biodiversity value or interest.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Report

Our output from an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey is a scientific report that includes details of the assessment, an appendix containing a species list, survey information, identified ecological impacts, summaries of legislation that protects species relevant to your site, commentary of biological records and target notes in the context of your development proposal, and opportunities to provide recommendations for next steps that will enable your project to continue.

Valid for two years, an ecological report will feature all of the main elements needed to explain the findings from a survey in extensive detail, as well as acting as a vital asset to be handed across to the planning department of your local council to support your planning application. It also includes a habitat map complete with target notes, visually outlining the potential ecological constraints identified on the site and mitigation measures that will allow the development to move forwards, whether that entails tweaking the development plans, relocating ecological features or arranging other surveys on the site.

Phase 1 Habitat Survey Example

At Arbtech, we produce your habitat map in the form of a plan drawing of your site with layers of information overlaid using QGIS, a widely used geospatial information system. The ‘species potential’ classification system that we use to determine if your development proposals pose a threat to protected species or habitats follows below. It is based on a straightforward table that places the habitat present on your site into one of five categories.

Generally speaking, sites with high or possibly even medium potential habitat or better will require sound justification for the development and could need further surveys such as Japanese knotweed surveys, a survey to support protected species, an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA), a National Vegetation Classification (NVC) or a more detailed vegetation survey. Sites with low or negligible potential habitat will normally continue without further consideration and will no longer require the support of an ecologist.

Species Habitat Potential Classification
An explanation of the criteria used when determining the circumstances of protected species during an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey.

For more information, read the full report that table was taken from.

What if I Need a Protected Species Survey?

If the results from a Phase 1 Habitat Survey indicate the need for a protected species survey – or if you would like to arrange a protected species survey based on evidence from another form of ecological survey – we are capable of conducting numerous assessments to support a planning application.

Not only that, but your Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey will include a free Scoping Bat Survey, saving you time and money, and reducing the likelihood of unexpected ecological issues or your local planning authority putting up more hurdles in the eleventh hour. We also provide other protected species surveys / pest species surveys, habitat surveys and, if necessary, a form of vegetation survey.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Cost

Instead of holding a set price, the cost of many of the assessments we provide vary based on the specifications of the site and project. We will price up the cost of Phase 1 Habitat Surveys in a way that ensures you aren’t paying more than you need to, with surveys on basic projects on smaller sites likely to be cheaper than surveys on complex projects on larger sites.

The baseline cost of our Extended Phase 1 Habitat Assessments start at £489+VAT. However, it would be advisable that all clients give us as much information about their site and project as possible at the first stage in the process when they contact us for a quote. We can then give you a price that reflects your site and project, and arrange for an ecological surveyor near to your location to conduct your survey.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Guidance

With advanced expertise and extensive experience as an ecological consultancy, many new and existing clients choose Arbtech for Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys. Following more than 15 years of undertaking ecological surveys across the United Kingdom, we are reliable and effective when it comes to analysing potential ecological issues on development sites as part of a site survey, contributing to a significant part of the planning process.

Phase 1 Habitat Survey Services

One of the many factors that makes us unique and more beneficial to work with is that we are experts in numerous areas related to ecology and arboriculture. Although we are capable of carrying out Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, we are also just as equipped at conducting further surveys such as protected species surveys and other assessments that measure ecological impact and offer methods of ecological enhancement.

For examples of our feedback from clients following Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys / Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, protected species surveys and other ecological surveys we have carried out across the UK, check out our reviews.

Our Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Consultants

Among our ranks are veteran ecologists with extensive experience and exciting new talent that are bringing a new approach to ecology. All of our ecological and environmental consultants are registered in England or Wales, hold an understanding of relevant legislation and planning policy, and possess the necessary qualifications, training and accreditation to conduct an Extended Survey or any other form of ecology survey you need.

Since Arbtech‘s inception, we have yearned to offer the quickest and best service to our clients. Part of this led us to allowing the majority of our team to work from home, meaning that each of our ecological surveyors can be located across the country, widening the scope of our coverage and giving our clients the option to work with us regardless of their location.

Book a Phase 1 Habitat Survey Today

If you would like to get a free quote for a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal on your site, simply give us a call using the number at the top of this page, fill out our quote form or get in touch on our contact page. We will then send across a no obligation quote, and if you are happy with it, send the quote form back to us and we will be able to get your project started.

Between the schedule of you and our ecologists, we will arrange a desirable date to book in a site visit. On the day of your assessment, environmental consultants will arrive at your development site to undertake an Extended Survey for ecological appraisal, identify habitat types, analyse rare and common habitats present, determine if any other site survey would be needed such as protected species surveys, an Ecological Impact Assessment or a National Vegetation Classification, initiative measures to support protected species, and provide advice to enhance your planning application.

Common Questions

A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) is another term given to an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey. Both titles are interchangeable, and the assessment has also been known to be called an Extended Survey or Habitat Survey. Even the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) commonly use both terms.
Every type of ecological assessment can be impacted by seasonal constraints and optimum time periods. In terms of an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey / Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, it is possible to undertake this form of assessment any time throughout the year. It can, however, be more difficult to identify less common flowering plant species during a Phase 1 Habitat Survey outside of the optimum time of late March and mid-October. That said, it is highly unlikely that your site will have any rare or unusual plants, even if you are working within designated sites or an area registered in England as an area with significant ecological value.

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