Whether a development site is in a rural or urban area, it’s vital that wildlife and habitats are considered as a part of the project to avoid habitat loss, fragmentation and the damaging impact of daily human activity on nature. Development sites can put pressure on different habitats, which can threaten vulnerable species that are classified as ‘protected’ and ‘priority’.
‘Protected’ species are protected by law, as outlined by Natural England, and include mammals such as bats, hazel dormice, water voles; birds such as the Hen Harrier and Dartford Warbler; amphibians such as Natter Jack toads; and molluscs and invertebrates such as the Roman snail and the High Brown Fritillary Butterfly; as well as many plants like the Corn Marigold. There are also 1,150 ‘priority’ species in the UK which are threatened species and require conservation.
This threat from development is why the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning has created the ‘Wildlife Assessment Check’tool. The online tool is free and helps to identify whether there may be any protected or priority wildlife species in the location where proposed works are to take place.
Who is it for?
Householders and smaller developers may be unaware that local planning authorities have a statutory requirement to consider the ecological impact of developments, and to promote improvements to biodiversity. This can result in delays and additional knock-on costs for projects, such as when unforeseen ecological surveys have to be carried out during particular seasons.
So, for a homeowner with a desire for a new kitchen extension, or a developer working on a small-scale project, the Wildlife Assessment Check tool can help cut delays and costs in the application process, by encouraging an early assessment of a site.
“Its very straight forward and simple to use, particularly the map at the start is fast and easy.” Feedback from planning applicant
The Wildlife Assessment Check also supports local planning authorities in the process of validating planning applications, helping them to meet their biodiversity duty by encouraging applicants to consider wildlife in advance of making a planning application.
“The feedback from our technicians validating applications is that it is very useful as a tool” Local planning officer feedback
A number of local planning authorities have included links to the Wildlife Assessment Check from their websites to encourage planning applicants to take a proactive approach to addressing ecology in their projects.
How does it work?
It’s a free online tool that’s easy to use and allows an applicant to check if they need expert ecological advice before submitting a planning application. They simply answer some quick questions about the site, the location, and type of works involved.
Once the questions are completed, which takes around 5 minutes, the website will indicate whether the project is likely to require professional ecological advice. It will outline the protected and priority wildlife species that need to be considered, as well as indicate the relevant planning authority, local environmental record centre or wildlife trust.
The tool provides more detailed guidance notes for each species with information about key legislation, mitigation requirements, ideas to improve habitats, and survey methods and timing. The tool also provides a report that can be downloaded and given to a consultant ecologist to help indicate whether they need to undertake ecological surveys, and they can also submit it as a part of a planning application.
Why is it important?
One in ten UK species are now threatened with extinction. Since 1970’s many UK wildlife species have been in decline, with over 1,200 species either extinct or threatened with extinction (State of nature report, 2016). New development projects have a wide-ranging impact on our wildlife. Protected and priority species are threatened when developments change or damage the structure of the natural environment. Sensitive landscape design, guided by ecological surveys, can help threatened species like hedgehogs and swallows to recover.
Considering local ecology early can help avoid unplanned for delays, unexpected costs, and prevent the need to reassess potential ecological impacts during a planning application. It can also help start the process of thinking how to improve the habitats and biodiversity as a part of a project.
You can access the tool at www.biodiversityinplanning.org. The website also contains additional information and resources to encourage developers to take greater account of biodiversity in their projects.
The Wildlife Assessment Check has been developed by the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning, a partnership of 19 conservation, planning and development organisations, including the RTPI, and is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
For further information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Rosalie Callway is Project Officer at Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning.