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Biodiversity and Geological Conservation Assessment

Published: 2020-01-27 Updated: 2020-10-23 Subject: Planning, Planning checklist

Local planning application requirement

As a planning authority, we have a duty to protect our local environment. This includes considering the impact on the local environment (including habitats, wildlife and geology) when assessing new development proposals. For us to do this effectively, you may have to submit surveys or assessments with your planning application.

This page provides guidance to help you to identify what surveys you will need, how to conduct them, and the information they should include. Select a survey type from the list below to learn more.

Protected Species and habitats

Where your proposed development may affect protected species or habitats, you must submit a Protected Species Survey and Assessment with your planning application. This may form part of a wider Ecological Assessment or part of an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Find out if you need a survey

View our local checklist to see the measures we use to assess if you will need a survey. Please note that this is guidance only, and there may be some cases not on the list where you will still need a survey. If you are unsure about this, we strongly recommend using our Pre-Planning Application Advice Service, which will give you access to expert ecological advice. 

What the survey should include

Your survey and assessment should do the following:

  • Measure which species are present and identify their approximate numbers 
  • Map their distribution and use of the area, site, structure or feature (for example, for feeding, shelter, breeding)
  • Identify and describe potential development impacts likely to harm the  species or their habitat
  • Include both direct and indirect effects both during construction and afterwards 
  • Give an indication of how species numbers are likely to change, if at all, after development, such as whether there will be a net loss or gain 

Where harm is likely, your assessment must show evidence of your plans for the following:

  • How you have considered alternative designs or locations 
  • How you will avoid negative effects, wherever possible
  • How you will reduce or mitigate unavoidable impacts 
  • How you will compensate for impacts that cannot be avoided or mitigated (for example, with new planting to replace felled trees or destroyed hedgegrows)

Designated sites, priority habitats and species, and geological conservation

As a Planning Authority, we have the power to protect sites within our area which have particular environmental importance. We do this by giving them designations, for scientific interest, for example. You can view areas with special designations on this interactive map from Defra (The UK Government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Select Designations and zoom in to find any information relevant to your proposed development site.

Where your proposed development is likely to affect such a designated site, priority habit or species or geological feature, you must get an Ecological/Geological Survey and Assessment. This assessment may form part of a wider Environmental Impact Assessment. 

Find out if you need a survey

You will probably need this type of survey if your proposed development is in, or next to, any of the following types of designated area:

  • Special Protection Area (SPA)
  • Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Ramsar Site (important area of wetland)
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI)
  • Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS)
  • Local Nature Reserve (LNR)
  • an area used by UK Biodiversity Action Plan habitats or species

Check our local guidelines for detailed information on designated sites and priority habitats and geological sites and features. If you are unsure about this, we strongly recommend using our Pre-Planning Application Advice Service, which will give you access to expert ecological advice. 

What the survey should include

Your survey and assessment should do the following:

  • Record which habitats, species and features are present on or near the site
  • Identify the size or number of the feature 
  • Map their distribution on site or in the surrounding area, shown on an appropriate scale plan
  • Identify and describe potential development impacts likely to harm designated sites, priority habitats or species, other listed biodiversity features or geological features
  • Include both direct and indirect effects both during construction and afterwards
  • Give an indication of likely change in the area (hectares) of priority habitat on the site after development (such as whether there will be a net loss or gain)

Where harm is likely, your assessment must show evidence of your plans for the following:

  • How you have considered alternative designs or locations 
  • How you will avoid negative effects, wherever possible
  • How you will reduce or mitigate unavoidable impacts 
  • How you will compensate for impacts that cannot be avoided or mitigated (for example, with new planting to replace felled trees or destroyed hedgegrows)

How to get your survey done

Whatever surveys you need, it is essential to employ a suitably experienced professional to do the job. They will be able to advise you about these aspects of the survey process: