Why Developers should be Planning for Ecology

June 23rd, 2015

Ecology is a study into the relationship of living things and their surrounding environment, and ecological research can have a huge impact for developers. If carefully understood and assessed, their ecological issues can enhance the value of a new development, but alternatively if they are not managed well these same issues can begin to cause frustrating problems. It’s vital that developers understand the role that ecology plays and how they can use it to their advantage.

Developments can have a big impact on ecology in several different ways. Not only do you have the obvious direct loss of species and habitats from ground works, but there are also ecological features that can be damaged due to disturbance from noise, light and air pollution. On top of that there is the danger of invasive species spreading, such as the dreaded Japanese knotweed, which grows incredibly quickly and can cause damage to infrastructure.

So just how should developers deal with ecological issues? Wildlife surveys are a key part of determining a site, and they take on a few different forms. Usually you can have a site assessed with a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), and this would include a desk study, a Phase 1 Habitat Survey and an assessment for protected species. From this appraisal you’ll begin to get an idea of how a new development would impact the environment.

If this appraisal finds that protected species are indeed on the site, then further action may be required. This could encompass a wide range of species, including the otter, dormouse and great crested newt, which are protected by European law. If you are proposing a large development then the assessment of ecological issues could have to be included in any of the planning applications.

You also have to take into account the timing of any ecology surveys, an aspect that can be overlooked. Surveys for different species could have very different outcomes depending on the time of year, so you have to be careful about when they’re undertaken. If bats or dormice are presumed to be on your site then you will need to consider their activity cycle, as both of these species have optimum times of the year to be surveyed.

You cannot just ignore the ecological issues and hope that they go away, and you could be fined a lot of money if you are believed to be avoiding the problems on purpose. Local authorities will need evidence that any developments will not have a negative impact to protected species, and you can only provide this with a survey. If you’re a developer who is debating a development on a new site, then Southern Ecological Solutions can provide the exhaustive and professional surveys to get you started.

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