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Ecology for Planning Applications

Anyone building, developing or rejuvenating a plot of land, with or without buildings, is required by law to consider the impact of the proposed project on the surrounding environment, including ecological factors such as habitats, wildlife and vegetation.

If a project requires planning permission then, as a minimum, a Phase 1 Survey (Ph1S), also known as a Preliminary Ecological Assessment (PEA), will have to be submitted to the local planning authority as part of the supporting documents for the planning application. Planning authorities now have a duty to consider biodiversity when assessing planning applications and some district and borough councils issue a biodiversity checklist to help potential developers understand or assess the level of detail the planning authority will require for a successful planning application.

It is advisable to consult with the local planning authority about your project as early as possible, particularly as there are occasions where a standard Phase 1 Survey and protected species surveys are not enough to meet the overall ecological requirements for the project; in these occasions an Ecological Impact Assessment may be required. Ecological Impact Assessments are usually only required for large infrastructure projects or projects close-by an area of ecological interest such as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar site).

If the Phase 1 Survey reveals that there may be protected or valuable habitats or species affected by the project then more detailed surveys will be required. These extra surveys must be completed and submitted with the planning application before the planning application can be validated and determined. It is now a legal requirement for all planning authorities to determine planning applications only when all relevant ecology surveys have been submitted and, if required, all ecological mitigation plans and wildlife licences have been agreed, or are in the process of.

HalpinRobbins undertake a range of surveys tailored to our clients planning requirements. For a better idea about our projects and work involving planning permissions see our case studies or contact us to discuss your project.

A simplified version of the planning process, relating to ecology, in England is shown below:

Stage 1. Before Site Purchase (Optional)

Undertake an Ecological Due Diligence Survey. This is a cursory look at the site to predict what types of species and habitat specific surveys may be required later.


Stage 2. Planning (Proposal Stage)

Undertake a Phase 1 Survey. This is a survey by a qualified ecologist to determine if the project or development will impact on any protected species or habitats


Stage 3. Planning (Design Stage)

If, as part of the Phase 1 Survey, no protected species or habitats are found or considered to have potential to be present then the ecologist will prepare a document, suitable for submission to a planning authority, detailing the survey's findings and recommendations.

If, as part of the Phase 1 Survey, protected species or habitats are found or considered to have potential to be present the ecologist will advise on further survey works to assess the projects effect on the species or habitats. These extra surveys will need to be undertaken prior to a planning application submission and can be used to design out or reduce any negative ecological impacts.


Stage 4. Planning (Application)

Once all the required ecological survey work has been completed, if no protected species or habitats have been found all the ecological survey reports can be submitted to the local planning authority for submission as part of the planning application.

If protected species and habitats were found, during the detailed survey work, then the ecologist can advise on how to progress the project through limiting the effect on these species or habitats. This can take the form of adjusting the planning application design, preparing a mitigation plan or a compensation proposal.

Norton Fitzwarren Somerset

You can find more information about planning applications from your local planning authority or on the planning portal website, the government gateway to planning information throughout the United Kingdom.


Our staff maintain and enhance their knowledge of ecology and the environment through research, specialist training and by maintaining membership of several professional and specialist bodies including:

Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
Royal Entomological Society
British Ecological Society

If you wish to find out more about permitting, ecology services or to discuss a project or development please contact us directly for a free, non-committal discussion.

"Nothing is too much trouble and the two way communication is second to none. I would not hesitate to recommend HalpinRobbins to anyone and we wouldn’t even contemplate going anywhere else."

Samantha Southam - Managing Director

Falcon Rural Housing Limited

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