Planning Surveys for New Homes: Why They’re So Important

Post by : Amy Sinden on 17.08.2022

All new developments are subject to recent legislation that will be enforced with effect from 2023. The purpose of the Environmental Act is to ensure that biodiversity in terms of species and habitats is not only preserved but enhanced. There is a set target that every developer must reach on each property undergoing development.

This has necessitated developers and new homeowners to have an ecology survey undertaken to measure the status quo of biodiversity on these properties. They will then be required to improve this by a set target. It is vital that developers are aware of the new requirements as penalties will be incurred for non-compliance. We provide you with the necessary information.

What Is the Purpose of an Ecology Survey?

The first time you become aware of the need for an ecology survey may well be when you submit your development plans to your local council office for approval to build your new home. An ecology survey comprises a comprehensive assessment of the impact of the proposed development on the habitat of the site or in conjunction with the surrounding area. The purpose of the ecology survey is to determine how wildlife and plants will be affected. It is important that the biodiversity of species not be compromised. On the other hand, certain invasive species of plant growing on the property could damage infrastructure at some point in time and may need to be removed.

Approval of your development plans by the local council will specify actions that need to be taken to preserve the site. Consultants like Ecology Surveys provide free same-day quotations for an ecology survey and immediately confirm a date for the appraisal once accepted. Ecology Surveys has over one-and-a-half decades of experience in the field. They are located across the UK.

When Is an Ecology Survey Required?

The property you plan to develop may house an ecosystem or may be home to a protected species of plant or wildlife. When this possibility exists, an ecology survey will be required. If your planning project involves new commercial developments, building onto an existing development, or the construction of a new home, then you will have to get the survey done.  

Water habitats that must be assessed include lakes, ditches, ponds, and other bodies of water. Land habitats that will be surveyed are hedgerow, scrub, woodland, heathland, meadows, pastures, parklands, and complex tree structures. Coastal habitats extend across land and water, with species that live in each, and others that utilise both and must also be appraised. However, in all cases, there can be interaction and a mutual ecosystem between water and land-based species that require assessment to avoid upsetting the delicate balance that gives rise to an abundance of living things.

Additionally, caves, or hollows that resemble caves, extensive suburban and rural gardens, and existing structures on the property for development must be checked. The latter includes buildings with wooden frames and access points, farm buildings, and abandoned or neglected structures.

The Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)

The Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is a recognised programme that is utilised globally to protect nature’s habitats. It informs developers at the outset of ecological limitations that will influence their projects due to the threat to biodiversity. Protected species were identified by the BAP to prevent or minimise harm to them. Developers are required to mitigate risks to these species.

The first BAP, after the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), was put in place by the UK. In the UK, BAP are listings of all the biological species in the country and the specially determined comprehensive action plans that were written up to conserve them. Reports are produced once every three to five years. These reports are for giving feedback on how the BAP has been able to decrease the loss of biodiversity agreed at the CBD by all nations present.

The UK BAP created two lists, the UK BAP Priority Habitats and the UK BAP Priority Species. This took place over several years, starting in 1995 and concluding in 1999. In 2005, these lists were reviewed over the next two years, along with the UK BAP processes.

Selection criteria for being on the two lists followed international conventions. The UK BAP Priority Habitats List prioritised habitats that were best for the conservation of the key species that had been identified, while the UK BAP Priority Species List considered species that were at high risk for losses or extinction or that showed a rapid decline in numbers. This resulted in new species being added to the list with a final tally of 65 priority habitats and 1,150 priority species in the UK.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)

Despite policies and laws to protect the natural environment, the UK has experienced a 13% decrease in biodiversity between the 1970s and 2019. This was revealed in the latter year’s State Of Nature report. New developments were the biggest contributor to this negative state. Clearly, stronger measures were called for. Starting in 2023, all applications for planning permission in the UK will be measured for the BNG produced. The DEFRA biodiversity metric is the instrument that performs these calculations.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is the result of the Environment Act, which ratified the Environment Bill through royal assent. According to the new legislation, all developments must not only protect existing species on site but achieve a 10% increase in biodiversity. Ideally, this 10% improvement would be at the site of the new development (on-site). If this is practically impossible, the net gain can be achieved offsite by purchasing the requisite units from a farmer whose land is underdeveloped (off-site). A mixture of on-site and off-site can also be used. The landowner or developer is bound to sustain this biodiversity for a minimum of 30 years. This fixed-period stipulation also applies to new owners of the land.

The new biodiversity requirements will help all developers and new homeowners contribute to the preservation of species and habitats in nature.  

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