Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

The first step in the ecology survey process, a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey acts as an opening overview of ecological features present on a development site such as protected species of animal and valuable plants.

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Overview of the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Phase 1 Habitat Survey

A knowledge of all ecological features present on a development site can be beneficial to developers and other stakeholders in the planning process, especially if the project involves undeveloped land. Also titled an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) works as an opportunity for qualified ecologists to assess a plot of land for ecological features within the site boundary and likely ecological impacts that will surface as a result of the development.

Primarily focusing on flora and fauna, a Preliminary Ecological Assessments are often the first step in the ecological assessment process. An ecologist will inspect the site for protected species and valuable plants before indexing them within a comprehensive ecology report. If there are signs of ecological impacts on the site that will harm ecological value, the ecological consultant will produce mitigation measures to find pragmatic solutions.

Based on the outcome of the assessment, the ecologist will be able to keep the project aligned with each relevant planning policy, manage ecological enhancement, compensate for any losses to biodiversity, suggest other necessary ecology surveys, and assist with the developer’s planning application to the local planning authority.

Why do I Require a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal?

Within multiple pieces of legislation, notable species of wildlife and rare or valuable plant species are legally protected. While it is unlikely that either of these assets would be harmed normally, potential impacts may arise during planning projects on the specific plot of land. Local planning officers will act to support protected species of animals and plants, and if the developer shows no evidence of consideration to ecological elements on the site, a planning application will not even be considered.

An Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey / PEA enables a developer to show proof that they have accounted for laws that conserve, preserve and protect the local area of their development. The ecological surveyor in charge of the assessment will be able to physically inspect the entirety of the site, accounting for all ecological features present and offering suggested alterations to the development that will minimise potential impacts to wildlife and plant life on the site.

CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

Operating within best practice guidelines from a corresponding regulator will guarantee a consistent and reliable service. In the case of a PEA / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management is the relevant authority, and as such, we follow their guidance when it comes to undertaking this type of assessment.

In the CIEEM’s Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (GPEA), a general outline of how an assessment should be conducted is explained. It also features other details in an effort to cover all areas, considerations and eventualities. Likewise, we follow relevant guidance from Natural England / Natural Resources Wales, corresponding local planning departments, and other organisations within ecology and environmental management.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Process

Prior to conducting an assessment, our team will speak to you about your site and project to determine the most suitable course of action. Then, if we believe that an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey / Preliminary Ecological Appraisal is needed, we will give you a quote and arrange an appropriate time to visit your site and identify potential ecological constraints.

A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey is divided into two core areas – an ecological desk study and a walkover survey. Below, we have detailed the purpose of each part.

Ecological Desk Study

Before visiting the site for an ecological appraisal, the consultant in charge of the assessment will retrieve information from a records centre, delve into relevant biological records about potential habitats occupying the site, and collect any important information about the site in relation to protections and ecology, such as whether or not the specific plot of land is classed as one of the UK’s designated sites.

At this point, the ecological surveyor can uncover any available records of protected species and valuable plant life located on or near to the development site. Details of biodiversity value can then contribute to the physical inspection of the site later in the ecological appraisal.

Walkover Survey

Following the ecological desk study, the ecological consultant will attend the site to carry out the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal. Inspecting all areas of the development site, both protected species of animal and plant will be indexed, and the consultant will speak to the developer about the project to gauge potential impacts on biodiversity value based on the locations of ecological features present.

The outcome from the inspection will prompt the ecologist into evaluating the ecological value of the site and whether the development will suffer ecological constraints by ecological assets and animal habitats present. As part of the habitat surveys process, the ecological surveyor will then create a habitat map including locations of all identified ecological features.


Upon completion of any ecology or habitat surveys, the ecologist will develop a scientific report with the purpose of showing evidence of consideration to any relevant planning policy, and to provide advice to the developer. In terms of a report for an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey / Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, the contents will feature all protected species listed, an overview of the assessment process, any identified ecological issues, and mitigation measures that will support protected species while enabling the project to move forwards.

With all the necessary information included, a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal report will be valid for two years and contribute to planning applications. More specifically, the developer will be able to submit the completed report to their local planning authority. As it will contain all of the information from the desk study and further details for designated sites or protected sites, as well as outcomes from the habitat survey, ecological constraints, and next steps that will satisfy all parties, the Phase 1 Habitat Survey report will play a significant role in gaining planning permission.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Experts

Over more than 15 years of carrying out ecological surveys, we are more than capable of undertaking Preliminary Ecological Appraisals on your development site. All of our ecologists hold the necessary experience, knowledge and licensing to visit your site, conduct Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, and provide advice to help you progress your project and secure planning applications.

With a combination of ground-breaking graduates and seasoned professionals, it is our aim to remain at the forefront of changes to ecological services while maintaining a grasp of a methodology with a proven success rate. Whether we are dealing with small designated sites with low ecological issues or protected sites for large commercial projects with a vast array of potential ecological constraints, we guarantee the same level of attention to detail.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Quote

Every time we produce a quote for a client, we request details of the main elements of the development site and project, as well as any other further information that the developer may want to include as part of their quote. We will then use these specifications to calculate an accurate quote for carrying out a PEA survey on the site.

Through approaching every client in the same way, our ecological surveys don’t cost more than they need to. For instance, setting a universal price for Preliminary Ecological Appraisals would mean that a small project with minimal ecological features would cost the same as a large project with numerous ecological issues and animal habitats present.

Book in a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

During the first stage of the planning process, the potential need for ecology surveys should be integrated within pre-application discussions. At this point, it would be advisable to contact us over the phone or by submitting your details via our helpful quote form.

You can then ensure that you are on the right track with the preparation of your project, and our expert team can assess your circumstances to identify the need for Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys / Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, or further surveys such as Ecological Impact Assessments or protected species surveys (e.g. for bats, nesting birds or other forms of protected species).

After speaking to us, we will provide you with a free quote, and if you are happy to work with us, we can designate a desirable date and time for one of our ecological consultants to carry out a site survey. The results of the survey will then support your planning project and your application for planning consent.