We are able to provide a wide range of ecological consultancy services which may be required from the scoping stages of developments and planning application (such as completing an Ecological Impact Assessment) through to the discharge of conditions (which may include Management Plans and fulfilling an Ecological Clerk of Works role).
If you require an ecology survey for planning at the request of the Local Planning Authority, this will usually include a baseline survey (such as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and/or Preliminary Roost Assessment), followed up with any protected species surveys which may also be required.
Please see the information below for further details.
Nutrient Neutrality Statements
Natural England issued guidance to all local planning authorities in Norfolk (and many in other parts of the country) in March 2022 regarding cumulative nutrient pollution impacts upon Habitats Sites. Any new developments in these affected areas which would lead to an increase in nutrient pollution must now provide mitigation to demonstrate the development would result in no additional nutrient pollution occurring (i.e. the development will be nutrient neutral).
Bench Ecology are able to provide guidance on how Nutrient Neutrality affects proposed developments, can complete the Nutrient Budget Calculator and prepare a supporting Nutrient Neutrality Statement in support of an application.
Uncertainties remain over mitigation solutions and the viability of providing these at the project-level. However we are happy to discuss and advise upon any potential mitigation solutions being proposed.
Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) + Bat Survey
If you are considering works to a building, such as a loft conversion or extension, a bat survey may be requested by the Local Planning Authority. The Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) is used to identify the potential for bats to roost in a building, structure or tree. Where potential is observed, activity surveys are often required.
The following list, though not exhaustive, is used as guidance by professional bat ecologists and local planning authorities to determine building types requiring survey (Collins, 2016):
- Agricultural buildings (e.g. farmhouses, barns and outbuildings) of traditional brick or stone construction and/or with exposed wooden beams;
- Buildings with weatherboarding and/or hanging tiles which are within 200m of woodland and/or water;
- Pre-1960 detached buildings and structures within 200m of woodland and/or water;
- Pre-1914 buildings within 400m of woodland and/or water;
- Pre-1914 buildings with gable ends or slate roofs, regardless of location;
- Located within or immediately adjacent to woodland and/or immediately adjacent to water;
- Dutch barns or livestock buildings with a single skin roof and board-and-gap or Yorkshire boarding if, following a Preliminary Roost Assessment the site appears particularly suited to bats;
- Churches and listed buildings.
This list is not exhaustive and should only be used as a guide; other building types may require survey. Similarly, some of the buildings described may not always require survey, although any deviation from guidelines should be justified by a suitably qualified ecologist.
Many bat species roost within buildings and so bat activity surveys may be required on a large variety of buildings if they are to be affected directly (e.g. conversion, demolition or modification) or indirectly (e.g. by artificial lighting) by development. Activity surveys take a number of forms dependent upon the situation:
- Dusk emergence / dawn re-entry surveys: this comprises a number of bat surveyors watching a building/structure/tree in the evening or early-morning to see if any bats emerge or enter;
- Static monitoring: static detectors are used to monitor activity at a given location over a period of time (usually 1-2 weeks at a time);
- Walked transects: sites affecting large areas (e.g. major residential developments) may require walked transects to be undertaken periodically throughout the survey season to gain an understanding of how bats currently use habitat features at the site (e.g. hedgerows, trees, waterbodies, etc.);
- Winter monitoring: some structures (e.g. stone barns and lime/brick kilns) can provide the cold, stable conditions required by bats for hibernation over winter. Inspections over the winter months and deploying static detectors may be required to determine presence / likely absence of hibernating bats.
Bats are a European Protected Species and are fully protected under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), making it an offence to destroy, disturb or block access to, their place of shelter, i.e. roosts. It is an offence to impair their ability to survive, breed, reproduce, or to rear or nurture young, or to impair their ability to hibernate or migrate.
Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)
For most new build development sites, Local Planning Authorities will usually request at least a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) to support a planning application which provides details of potential impacts upon biodiversity. The PEA should comprise:
A desk-based study, including identification of nearby sites/habitats of ecological value and a review of any known species records for the area
An Extended Phase 1 Habitat survey, involving a site visit to identify and map habitats at the site and their potential to support protected and/or priority species
A technical report detailing survey methodologies, survey results, a preliminary assessment of potential impacts, identification of any further surveys required, and mitigation recommendations
PEA reports may be sufficient to support planning applications for minor developments or for sites of low ecological value, although larger or more complex sites will usually require at least some protected species surveys to be undertaken.
Protected Species Survey
A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal often determines the need for further surveys to be undertaken due to the habitats present at or adjacent to a site and/or recent records of protected species presence. A wide range of species may be affected by a proposed development, with the following species the most common requiring detailed surveys:
- Great Crested Newts
- Water Vole & Otter
- Rare Plants
We can undertake surveys for most species ourselves and for those we cannot, we have appropriately qualified associates who we work closely with.
Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)
An EcIA is the report which will usually be required to support planning applications where significant impacts upon biodiversity are likely and require mitigation. This brings together all the information from a PEA, PRA and any protected species surveys undertaken to provide an overall impact assessment of the proposed development.
The report also details any bespoke mitigation required during or post-construction, and may indicate the necessity for further mitigation works to be secured, for example through an EPSM licence obtained from Natural England or a Management Plan agreed with the Local Planning Authority.
An EcIA can be used to form the Ecology chapter for a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Environmental Statement (ES).
European Protected Species Mitigation (EPSM) Licence
A European Protected Species Mitigation (EPSM) licence may be required to carry out works which would otherwise be a wildlife offence. For example, a barn conversion may lead to destruction of, or obstructing access to, a bat roost. An EPSM licence can only be applied for from Natural England after planning permission is granted and must be obtained prior to works commencing.
We are able to design suitable mitigation, complete and submit the licence application to Natural England, and oversee any aspects of work as required by the EPSM licence.
Management Plans (EMPs, CEMPs, LEMPs, etc.)
A variety of Management Plans may be conditioned to planning consent by the Local Planning Authority, including:
- Ecological Management Plan (EMP)/Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP)
- Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)
- Landscape and Ecology Management Plan (LEMP)
Although there are slight differences between these Management Plans, they will usually detail mitigation requirements (both during and after construction), habitat enhancements and how the site should be managed during the operation phase to maintain/enhance ecological features.
We can provide all relevant information to produce EMPs, BMPs and CEMPs. We can also create LEMPs with provision of a planting scheme, or by liaising with a client-appointed landscape architect.
Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW)
Presence of an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) may be required to ensure compliance with a European Protected Species Mitigation (EPSM) licence or Management Plan.
An ECoW is usually the first point of contact for any ecological issues arising at a site during construction, and can provide ongoing advice on how construction and mitigation works should be implemented correctly.
We can provide a full range of ECoW services, including provision of tool box talks for contractors working at a site and overseeing the implementation of mitigation to ensure compliance with mitigation licences or management plans.