From £599

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Phase 1 Habitat Survey

The most popular option. This is a comprehensive level of survey suitable for most sites and developments. It is a catch-all assessment for a variety of species of flora and fauna. It is often referred to as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal.

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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.

Everything You Need to Know

An Arbtech Habitat Survey

An extended phase 1 habitat survey or preliminary ecological appraisal is the baseline ecological assessment survey. To expand on that, it is a standardised method of appraising your site for the presence of plants and animals of all types at the earliest stage. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s 2010 publication ‘Handbook for Phase 1 Survey‘ sets out the main elements of the methodology for the assessment and categorisation of various habitats present on your site, which means your report should contain roughly the same information (or at least refer to the same data collected) no matter who undertakes the survey.

It might be useful to think of your preliminary ecological appraisal (or ‘extended phase 1’ as they are known among ecologists) as a scoping exercise with the aim of indexing anything of biodiversity value on your site – such as habitats present – and, by default, confirming the absence of everything else; thereby avoiding any applicable ecological constraints and eliminating any need for further surveys when not absolutely necessary.

You will also require, as part of your extended phase 1 habitat survey, something called biological records data. This will normally (though not always) be purchased from a third party, such as a record centre or wildlife trust.

The cost varies according to the location and size of your site, which we confirm to you before placing an order, and is the only disbursement you should expect to incur.

The first step is have a chat to you about your site and to establish that you do actually need a habitat survey. It may be that from your description we can move you directly onto the relevant single-species survey and in doing so, bypass any unnecessary time wasted and expense.

However, if you do need the survey

Our output from a preliminary ecological appraisal / extended phase 1 habitat survey is a scientific report; including a habitat map complete with target notes and identified ecological constraints; an appendix containing a species list; summaries of legislation that protects species relevant to your site; and a commentary of the biological records in the context of your development proposals.

Been asked for a bat survey too?

If you have buildings within your site, we offer a value-added service that few other consultants will match. With Arbtech, your preliminary ecological appraisal includes a scoping bat survey assessment for free, saving you money and time, and reducing the likelihood of unexpected ecological issues or your local planning authority throwing up more hurdles at the eleventh hour.

When can a habitat survey be done?

Extended phase 1 habitat surveys / preliminary ecological appraisals can be undertaken at any time of the year, though the identification of less common of flowering plant species is made much easier within the optimum time of late March and mid October.

In all probability though, your site will have few if any rare and unusual plants, at least if our experience of thousands of lowland extended phase 1s is anything to go by.

Why do I need a habitat survey?

ODPM Circular 06/05 and the NPPF – central government planning policy documents that specifically deal with biodiversity and conservation – set out clearly that local planning officers must place store on applicants’ attention to the conservation and enhancement of habitats and protected species, when determining a planning application.

Naturally, it is difficult to achieve this without making the results of ecological surveys available as part of the pre-application discussions. In this way, you demonstrate that you have embraced their policy, understood likely ecological constraints, and made the ability to support protected species a material consideration in your design process.

In turn, this ensures that the planning office cannot reject your planning application on the grounds of insufficient information provided and so must deliberate your application without delay.

By providing your local planning authority with a comprehensive report prepared using a standardised method, which will provide recommendations for further survey or confirm the degree of risk to protected species and habitats is tolerably low, you remove any ambiguity over the potential for habitat loss or population impact on species.

Further information can be provided in your preliminary ecological appraisal report to persuade your local planning authority of the benefits of your development, such as preliminary mitigation methods and the provision of ecological improvement features and compensatory habitat/enhancements.

A preliminary ecological appraisal

More Information

The method for undertaking an extended phase 1 habitat survey (preliminary ecological appraisal) is typically split into two sections: an ecological desk study and a walkover survey. During the desk study, the ecological consultant will collect site information, clarifying certain factors such as whether the plot of land is listed as one of the UK’s many designated sites. At this point, they will also look into species records and information around habitats such as species distribution. In the second part of the preliminary ecological appraisal, the survey will visit the site at the optimum times and index every species of plant and animal habitats present on the site, and in the case of legally protected species, close to it.

They will produce a habitat map that contains standardised designations for various habitat types (e.g. ‘tall ruderal vegetation’ – there are around one hundred such classifications and each has its own colour and hatching pattern on the map) and detail, such as target notes about specific areas of biodiversity value or interest (e.g. ‘Target Note 1: bat droppings found in Barn 2’).

At Arbtech, we produce your habitat map – a plan drawing of your site with layers of information overlaid – using QGIS, a widely used geospatial information system.

This information will be set in the context of the biological records data you need to obtain from one of the following bodies; your LPA, a local wildlife trust, or the National Biodiversity Network.

There are other interest groups and not-for-profit organisations that hold data, such as bat groups, but that level of detail is rarely necessary for an extended phase 1. With all this data coming together, we then need to simplify it and grade your site according to ecological issues and any potential risks it poses to species and habitats present.

The ‘species potential’ classification system that Arbtech use to determine if your development proposals pose a threat to protected species or habitats follows below:

Species Habitat Potential Classification

Read the full report that table was taken from. As you can see, the table is straightforward and puts the habitat present on your site into one of the five categories. Generally speaking, sites with high (and occasionally medium) potential habitat or better will require sound justification for the development and potentially, further surveys. Those with low or negligible species potential will normally continue without further consideration and will no longer require the support of an ecologist.

External Resources:


  • Anon., (2010) Handbook for Phase 1 habitat survey – A technique for  environmental audit. England Field Unit, Nature Conservancy Council.

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If you would like to get a free quote for your preliminary ecological appraisal, just give us a call or fill in the form above. We’ll provide you with a free, no obligation quote and if you like what you see, we’ll get your project started in no time.

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