Before we reach the main focus of today’s blog post, it’s worth mentioning the recent exit from the European Union (EU) and how this affects ecology.
We are currently going through a transition period (set to continue until the end of the year) and during this time, the EU regulations (and policy) are proposed to remain in place. This means that whilst there have been a few amendments to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2017) (Habitat Regs) – resulting in, The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – existing protections continue to be applicable; therefore, obtaining European Protected Species Licences (EPSL) and undertaking Habitat Regulations Assessments (HRA’s) are still required, where necessary.
Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and Ramsar sites are now termed collectively as the ‘National Site Network’ and a new regulation has been introduced regarding the objectives of these sites, which places a responsibility on local authorities to manage them – this may have an impact on developments within the locality of these sites in terms of contributing towards funding for their management, potentially supported by local authority Recreational Avoidance Mitigation Strategies (RAMS).
The take-home message for ecology, therefore – for the time being – is business as usual.
Survey and reports – Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)
In January, we took a whistle-stop tour of the key drivers behind ecology surveys; following on from this, it’s useful to take a look at the main types of surveys and reports that are required as part of the planning process when considering development of a site.
The first stage is typically to undertake a PEA – also known as a Phase 1 survey.
The main purpose of the PEA is to establish an understanding of what the site comprises in terms of the habitats that are present and the potential for the site to support species of note, or species that are protected by legislation. In order to determine habitat types, a standardised system is used, such as the Phase 1 Habitat Survey methodology (JNCC, 2010). In addition to the site itself, ecological features within the surrounding area (including the zone of influence of the proposed development) are also assessed, again in terms of habitats (and the connectivity of these to the subject site) and the potential for species presence.
The PEA essentially involves a trained ecologist undertaking a walkover of the site to ascertain the above information. A desk study is also undertaken, which usually comprises obtaining records of notable sites, habitats and species within a certain radius, and a review of online resources, such as aerial images.
The information gathered from the walkover and desk study is then interpreted in terms of likely constraints and opportunities in relation to the proposed development, and the need for any further surveys to be undertaken in relation to habitats and species. This information is usually presented in a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Report (PEAR).
The PEA is intended to feed into an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA), which is then used to support a planning application.
Our ecologists are experienced in guiding clients through the planning process, and are here to help, so do get in touch.