Ecology Survey in Surrey

Surrey is one of the most rural counties in all of the United Kingdom, but when a developer looks to stage a land or property development in the county, an ecology survey will be needed before the local council will consider applications for planning permission.

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Surrey’s Expansive Countryside

A county widely known for vast green areas, more than 70% of Surrey in South East England is considered rural. In addition, two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) feature within the county and over 70% of the county is within national or international landscape or biodiversity designations. Although a surprising 85% of the population is situated in urban areas, 73% and 25% of Surrey are green belt and AONBs respectively, meaning it carries more protections from development.

Available greenfield land – and the harder to obtain but technically available green belt land – are preferable options for developers, and in a part of the country as rural as Surrey, both apply. It can be an expensive place to buy land or property, but all of Southern England can also offer an opportunity to invest, and providing a suitable plot of land or property within the rural communities can be obtained, it is perfectly likely that the developer will be able to turn a profit on it in the future.

An issue that any developer will find in land or property developments is that valuable, rare or invasive species of plants or animals may be present, and if they are, it can pose issues to the project. Before discovering listed protected species late into the development process, developers are advised to contact an ecological consultancy for an ecology survey, as it will address the protected species present, prompt effective measures to guarantee their safety alongside the continued progress of the proposed development and eliminate any obstacles that would otherwise harm an application for planning consent.

Initiatives for Wildlife Protection

In order to ensure that listed protected species are safeguarded correctly, multiple groups are given jurisdiction. As with all counties in the United Kingdom, Surrey County Council enforce rules regarding rare and valuable plants and animals, with departments dedicated to conservation, preservation and protection.

Another group that focuses on the safety of animals and plants throughout the county is the Surrey Wildlife Trust, as well as other organisations that focus on a broad range of ecological considerations, such as Natural England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and specific groups for each European protected species, such as the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) for bats. It is also common to see smaller societies designed to cater to local protected species for each listed animal with a particularly notable occupancy in the area. From the longlist detailed in corresponding legislation, protected animals that are present in Surrey include bats, dormice, natterjack toads, otters and reptiles.

The presence of specific animals and plants is dictated by their behaviours and the climate of the area, and the two main pieces of legislation that mandate actions that could impact protected species are the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Our experienced ecologists are trained and qualified to meet the requirements of the local planning authority and the laws they enforce. As such, they are ideally suited to supporting a developer with their planning project, not only to satisfy certain targets but also to tick the boxes held by the local authority for granting planning permission.

Assessing Ecological Features

In any situation where it is uncertain what wildlife is present on a site or property, the first step would be to conduct a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey. Over the course of this form of assessment, an ecological consultant will review a site and all corresponding buildings and other structures using specialist equipment for evidence of wildlife and indications of habitat suitability, now and in the future. The professional ecologist will then use a preliminary ecological appraisal to correlate natural and man-made structures such as old trees and hedgerows alongside the proposed works to see if any overlap could affect bats, great crested newts, water voles or other protected species.

Whenever rare or valuable animals or plants are identified on a site, a further survey in the form of a focused protected species survey will be needed to address the occupancy, determine the extent of it, and establish measures that will ensure their safety and allow the planning project to continue. Alternatively, no listed wildlife will be found, leading to no further survey work and a recommendation for a planning condition on the site, or features on the site or property will indicate that wildlife could form habitats in the future, meaning that the ecological surveyor will need to initiate changes to prevent the development from harming future animals or plants.

Every conclusion from an ecology survey and the next steps needed to cater to wildlife on the site are detailed in an ecology report. If there were no signs of listed animals or plants on the site – or if any indications were dealt with using appropriate mitigation measures during the assessment – the report will support the planning application. If, however, protected species were found and need further inspections, the necessary assessments will be needed beforehand. For animals, protected species surveys include badger surveys, barn owl surveys, bat surveys, dormouse surveys, great crested newt surveys, otter surveys, reptile surveys or water vole surveys, and for plants, they include giant hogweed surveys, Himalayan balsam surveys, injurious weed surveys or Japanese knotweed surveys.

A development proposal may need any number of ecology services, with each of the different assessments that fit alternative purposes. For instance, if a bat roost or other indications of bats present such as bat droppings are found during a preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) or an ecological impact assessment (EcIA), a bat survey will be needed, starting with preliminary roost assessments (PRAs) to find bats, bat roosts and support roosting bats. If more information is needed after the preliminary roost assessment (PRA), bat ecologists will need to conduct bat activity surveys / bat emergence surveys / bat entry and re-entry surveys (BERS). Then, if it is applicable to disturb bats, it will also be necessary to apply for a bat mitigation class licence. Fortunately, we are able to undertake these ecology surveys, inspections for other protected species and assist with European protected species licence applications, all at the optimal time.

Book an Ecology Survey with Us

Assembled from a variety of experts in ecology, our friendly team is equipped in all disciplines for attending to your needs. Whether you are aware of the required ecological services or not, we will be able to assist you, work closely with you and support your project. All you need to do is get in touch with us over the phone, email or via our quick quote form and provide us with extensive details of your site and project.

From this point onwards, we will be able to speak to you about your needs and send you a free quote for your consideration. Then, give us the green light, and we can work out an ideal time for a principal ecologist to visit your site, provide expert advice and support, and undertake an ecology survey and any other further surveys that will smooth the planning process, account for the many species of animals and plants present, satisfy the local authorities and secure planning permission.