Before we pick up the main focus of today’s post, it’s worth commenting on how ecology work has been progressing in light of the current coronavirus situation since our last update. Lockdown has continued over the last few weeks along with social distancing measures, and we have therefore been undertaking our surveys within these constraints – adhering to government guidance and that of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM); in order to assist ecological work during this time, CIEEM have recently published a guidance document1 (7 May) to specifically address ways in which surveys and assessment can be adapted in the UK during this time and which we will be applying to projects where required.

In light of development work progressing within the necessary constraints, today’s article picks up from those published back in March, whereby we provide clarity on the types of ecological survey and reporting that you are likely to need for planning purposes. We first looked at Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), which is largely considered to be the first stage in the ecological assessment process. Next, we discussed protected species surveys in more detail. Leading on from this, we will take a closer look today at Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA).

EcIA is typically the final stage in the pre-application assessment process for most development projects, and is the culmination of the information gathering and assessment undertaken as part of the PEA and any follow-on surveys.

EcIA was formerly considered to be a term singularly associated with the statutory requirements of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) relating to certain projects that fall under the EIA Regulations, whereby an Environmental Statement is produced, of which ecology is one of the disciplines that inputs to the statement.

Because the assessment process of an EcIA is considered to comprise a robust methodology, it is now used across the board as the appropriate means by which to report and assess ecology when accompanying a planning application (non-statutory and statutory).

In essence, the EcIA seeks to identify, quantify and evaluate the likely effects of a proposed development on those ecological features of note that have been identified in the PEA and any subsequent surveys. The methodology involves a stepped process of assessment, which ultimately aids decision making.

Where a PEA does not identify any outstanding issues, an EcIA report can be written up straight away and submitted alongside a planning application. Where a PEA identifies that further work is required in order to robustly assess the implications of a development proposal on ecology, the EcIA report becomes the final document in the process that pulls together all of the information and provides the final assessment.

Our ecologists are experienced in guiding you through the planning process from start to finish, including undertaking EcIA, so please get in touch with any queries.

1 CIEEM (2020). Guidance on Ecological Survey and Assessment in the UK During the Covid-19 Outbreak. Version 1, published 7 May 2020. Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Winchester, UK.