Housing developments are necessary part of our growing economy satisfying the demand for homes by our ever growing population. Prospecting and acquiring suitable land to undertake a housing development is the first stage for a housing project. The scale of the project can vary as some require large areas of land to be converted into completely new towns, while others expand the edges, conurbations or fill gaps in towns and villages.
It is important to instruct an ecologist during the initial stages of any new housing project as they will be able to provide advice regarding ecological constraints, and provide solutions to avoidable scenarios that could cause a delay to the progress of a project. At the design stage it is always useful to have input from an ecologist as there may be elements of your proposals or landscape design that had not been considered.
Please contact us now to discuss your project. It is important to understand the ecological requirements of your project at the earliest available opportunity.
A prospective site for a housing development could have protected habitats, or the presence of (or potential for) protected species, examples include:
- mature trees, woodland, hedgerows, acid grassland or heathland which may also have the potential to support protected species such as reptiles, roosting bats or dormice; and/or
- buildings, structures (such as bridges or culverts) and trees on a site that may have the potential to support nesting birds and bats.
Therefore, it is important that a Preliminary Ecological Assessment (PEA) is undertaken to evaluate the baseline conditions.
If protected habitats or protected species (incl. the potential for) are noted on site further advice is required on limitations to activities (e.g. habitat clearance or building works) that can be undertaken on site, and how the project will proceed regarding any Ecological Constraints that have been identified. Request a quote for a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal.
Ecological constraints include the presence of protected habitats or protected species (and the potential for them) as outlined above. Any ecological constraints to your development will be identified following the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, and a data search or desk study of the site. These can include sites important for nature conservation, protected species consultation zones, and seasonal or protected species constraints. They may also require further information to be gathered by undertaking Phase 2 Surveys in order to undertake a robust and comprehensive assessment.
Phase 2 surveys for protected species and any impact assessment for the proposed development will need to be undertaken in accordance with the following:
- Recommended optimal survey periods which are seasonal and vary for each species;
- The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) guidelines; and
- Current best practice survey and mitigation guidelines produced by The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust; Bat Conservation Trust; and Natural England to name a few.
Ecological Reports and Management Plans
Once the Phase 2 surveys are completed (if required) the next stage in your housing development will include the provision of ecological advice based on ecological impact assessments of the proposals which will include some of the following reports:
- Preliminary Ecological Appraisal – includes recommendations for further surveys, and are generally not submitted with planning applications unless there are no recommendations for further surveys;
- Ecology Report or Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) – includes the information contained in the PEA report, the findings of any Phase 2 surveys undertaken, an assessment of the impacts of the proposed development and recommendations for ecological avoidance, mitigation, enhancement and compensation;
- Management and Ecological Plans – there are variety of reports that can be produced; however, the most commonly requested reports for housing developments are either an Ecological Mitigation and Enhancement Strategy (EMES) or a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP). These reports collate all previous recommendations into a single document, and provide specific regarding the post construction, construction and operation phases of the site, and advice regarding the timing and implementation of ecological recommendations.
- Post Construction Monitoring Report – this report will include details of and site audits that have been undertaken post construction to ensure that ecological recommendations have been implemented.
Site Mitigation and Enabling
On sites where mitigation is required for more than one species, for example reptiles, bats and great crested newts, it is advantageous to prepare an Ecological Mitigation and Enhancement Strategy or Biodiversity Mitigation and Enhancement Plan to collate the recommendations provided in the Phase 2 reports into a single document.
Once planning permission is granted your site will need to be enabled. This will involve implementing the mitigation plans for the relevant protected species on site and/or undertaking works in accordance with the conditions of a European Protected Species Mitigation Licence issued by Natural England (or relevant authority). It is worth noting that licence applications can only be submitted once planning permission is granted and all other consents (e.g. listed buildings) are in place. Natural England aim to reach a decision 30 working days from the receipt of applications and do not process applications more than 3 months in advance of the licensable works taking place. So planning the mitigation works in advance will avoid unnecessary delays to the proposed programme of your scheme.
Finally, to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development includes the National Planning Policy Framework which was recently revised in July 2018, sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied. The NPPF must be taken into account the preparation of a development plan, and is a material consideration in planning decisions. Planning policies and decisions must also reflect relevant international obligations and statutory requirements.
Remeber, our top tip is to get an ecologist on board as soon as possible. We can undertake the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal at any time of year, which will help to identify potential constraints and help you to plan your development timeline.