Why put ecology first?
Ecological assessments are still seen as a relatively new aspect to development, with many people getting caught out during the planning process. Clear legislation on habitat and species protection has been in place for many years. However, for non-specialists understanding the constraints of survey times, licence applications and mitigation methods can be confusing. Below, are the key considerations we think you should embrace when planning any development.
Early discussions with an ecologist when considering a new project (even before the design stage), can save time and money over the life of the project, helping to avoid costly delays (e.g. waiting for the next survey season).
Although ecology is often seen as a constraint, this does not have to be the case. Careful planning and design can often significantly increase the ecological and landscape value of the site for both wildlife and people.
Communication is vital
Keep your ecological specialist up to date with amendments to work schedules and site plans. They can only offer you the best advice when informed in good time. Seemingly harmless tweaks to site layouts and building plans have the potential to conflict with conditions, licensing relating to ecology and legal compliance.
Protected species and habitats.
Understand where you and your proposed project stand within the legal structure for protected species and habitats.
Protected species can pose particular constraints. However, timely evaluation and discussions with government bodies can make this a painless process (don’t stick your head in the sand and hope they will go away!).
Understand that there are seasonal constraints to field surveys. Not planning and conducting species surveys during the correct season, may require waiting up to 12 months before you can re-survey. Ask an ecologist to review the existing site information or meet you on site for a quick look and chat about possible future plans. They will be able to advise on the likelihood of surveys being required or not. If there is potential for certain species, you can then factor survey seasons into any planning applications.
Barn owls on nest box – photo: Edwin Parish
Habitat protection, creation and enhancement
Habitat protection, creation and enhancement must be a fundamental consideration for any design and should aim to link and restore existing wildlife ‘green’ corridors. Habitat creation should be simple and relevant to the size of the site and surrounding area. Don’t try to do too much in a small area, or use species or designs not in-keeping with existing adjacent habitats. Habitat creation can still be very effective on a small scale, with a network of smaller sites often being more valuable than one large area.
Remove invasive species
Remove invasive species, such as Japanese Knotweed, as a matter of priority. The longer you leave it, the significantly more it will cost to resolve, for removal and construction delays whilst it is eradicated.
We find that client’s who fully commit to understanding and working within ecological and legislative constraints from the outset, often find their projects run more smoothly. If embraced early, potential constraints can be avoided, providing a greater ecologically sound end product on time and to budget.