Happy New Year! We’re kicking off 2020 with a post focusing on the key drivers for undertaking ecology surveys and reporting, that are required as part of the planning process. In other words, why is it necessary to commission certain surveys and reports?

Let’s start off with a closer look at protected species:

It is common knowledge that across the board, our wildlife has undergone serious declines over the last few decades. In the UK, certain animals and plants are specially protected under national legislation, which is partially derived from the UK’s commitments to European Directives. In addition, local authorities have a duty to consider protected species when determining applications. Animal welfare legislation is also in place, which prevents cruelty.

The primary piece of national legislation is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). European protected species are covered under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (England and Wales). These pieces of legislation list a number of plants and animals that require special consideration as part of development works.

The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) Regulations 2009, bolsters protection offered to protected species that are listed on the Birds and Habitats Directive.

Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

In addition to protected species, certain invasive non-native species are listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for example, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. This is designed to prevent the release and spread of these species.

As well as species, habitats are also considered:

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, places a duty on public authorities to consider biodiversity as part of their decision making. This translates into the requirement for a local authority to address ways in which to halt declines in habitats (and species) locally, in addition to ecological enhancement. Importantly, this includes habitats (and species) that are found outside of those sites designated for their nature conservation interest. A particular focus for local authorities when discharging their duty, is those habitats (and species) considered to be of principal importance (priority habitats and species). The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 strengthens existing legislation.

Certain hedgerows are protected under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, which means that the removal of important hedgerows requires permission.

Provision for nature conservation with regards to the UK’s coasts and sea, is covered by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

There are also designated sites for nature conservation to consider — statutory and non-statutory, international and national.

Those with international statutory protection comprise: Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar sites. Designations with national statutory protection in England comprise: Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Nature Reserves (NNRs), Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) and Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).

Finally, planning legislation also considers ecology. This includes the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 (England).

This may all seem like a bit of a minefield, but rest assured that our team of experienced ecologists are well-versed in legislation, policy and best practice guidance and how this relates to your project, so do get in touch.