Best Practice in Biodiversity Report Writing for Development Sites - Adam Egglesfield, Hampshire County Council
Best Practice in BiodiversityReport Writing for DevelopmentSitesAdam EgglesfieldSenior EcologistHampshire County Council Ecology Group01962 832334 / 07718 email@example.com
This talk will cover…• Why biodiversity reports are needed• When they are needed• What purpose reports should serve• Different approaches for different situations
This talk is not…• Teaching planning officers how to be ecologists…• Telling experienced consultants how to do their job!
Why?Before making an application, the applicant needsto know what (if any) ecological issues need to beaddressed, and how to address them.Before making a decision, the planning officerneeds to know what the issues are and if theyhave been fully addressed.
Why?• Planning Authorities: – Legal drivers – PPS9 / NE standing advice / Habitats Regulations – Case law (Woolley, Cornwall case) – Robust evidence on which to base planning decisions
Why?• Developers: – Ultimately, to gain planning permission – Reducing risk of non-compliance with legislation – Reducing risk of delays to work programmes – Reducing risk of being the target of legal action – Potential for obtaining positive public relations – Satisfaction at achieving benefits for biodiversity
When?• PPS9 & Circular: – Para 98: The presence of a protected species is a material consideration when a planning authority is considering a development proposal that, if carried out, would be likely to result in harm to the species or its habitat. – Para 99: It is essential that the presence or otherwise of protected species, and the extent that they may be affected by the proposed development, is established before the planning permission is granted.
When?• 1APP – ‘…is there a reasonable likelihood of the following being affected adversely or conserved and enhanced within the application site or on land adjacent to the application site? • Protected and priority species • Designated sites, important habitats or other biodiversity features’
When?• Natural England standing advice on protected species – Full protected species information must be provided with application – to include surveys, and if necessary, a mitigation strategy that can be secured through conditions or other mechanism – Provision of this information should not deferred as condition of any permission
When?• Applicants – HIPOG Biodiversity Checklist for some types of application (but not always householder) – Submitted with application – If not submitted or incorrectly completed, application shouldn’t be validated – Has this identified the need for further biodiversity info? – Planning officers can request further info from applicants
When?• Planning officers – can use the HIPOG Biodiversity Checklist, plus: – HBIC screening of weekly planning lists – Informal discussions with LPA ecologist – Own assessments or thoughts from site visits or other knowledge (e.g. neighbours, other nearby developments)
When?• Bats – Pre-1914 buildings with gable ends or slate roofs, regardless of location (although many others!).• Reptiles – Brownfield sites, rough / bare ground, railways, allotments, cemeteries etc• Nesting birds – Denser vegetation (hedges, brambles), older buildings, garages etc
What?• Remember the audience – Planners – General public (informed or uninformed) – Natural England – Wildlife Trust – LPA ecologists• It will be scrutinised• It must be clear – time is a factor…
What?• Every project is different• Standard report-writing guides e.g. IEEM (2008). Guidance for Ecological Report Writing. Professional Guidance Series.• Ultimately, needs to do the job it is supposed to do• Tailor content to the project – dense report won’t be read by a householder; brief report unlikely to be sufficient for larger development.
What?• Project brief – Why was the ecologist brought in? – Has the applicant been advised if any other work needs doing? Two-way process between consultant and applicant, don’t assume that the client always knows what they need – Does the ecologist have all the relevant detail? Up to date plans, timescale, other constraints? – Planners – is the survey relevant to the development?
What?• Methodology (1) – Desk study? HBIC / NBN / MAGIC / mapping / aerial photos etc – Standard methods? E.g. JNCC Phase 1; BCT survey guidelines; Froglife reptile survey guidelines; NE GCN survey guidelines – Any deviation from these? – some are more rigid than others, need more justification. – Although guidelines are just that, they are based on sound principles. E.g. Bats – we often don’t see dawn re-entry surveys, when these can be particularly useful e.g. swarming of young bats around entry points.
What?• Methodology (2) – Personnel / qualifications (don’t need full CV – just that they are an ecologist, reassurance that they are, for example, a licence holder for a particular species) • Lots of ecology reports submitted by architects, pest controllers etc! – Timing (time of year / time of day) – if outside optimum survey periods, state why and if this would affect results – Equipment used, with comments on constraints, suitability e.g. different bat detectors
What?• Methodology (3) – Extent of survey – site / immediate surroundings / wider landscape following links or networks – Constraints e.g. access problems (GCN ponds) – Weather conditions – Numbers / locations of surveyors (is this sufficient? – could you really have looked at all the access points with only one person walking around the house?)
What?• Results (1) – Results NOT interpretation – e.g. we saw bats, NOT we found a maternity roost. Save that for the discussion / impact assessment – Start from the beginning – describe the site in terms of what is relevant, and its setting in the landscape (if relevant). Put it in context. Don’t need it all, can include extra in appendices e.g. NBN maps, HBIC data. – Desk study results – International / national / local sites – General surroundings e.g. adjacent to a wood; in a river valley; surrounded by modern housing.
What?• Results (2) – If describing the site, make sure it is relevant to the survey. E.g. if writing a bat survey report for a house, make sure the house is properly described, don’t just say it is a house with a pitched roof. • What are the tiles? • What other features are there? • What is the condition? • Occupation? • Recently cleared?
What?• Results (3) – Fieldwork – How best to present data? Lengthy text often not ideal – this could be saved for the discussion. – Tables / Photos / Maps – essential for Phase 1; Bat surveys – maps and photos much better at showing things than just text. Show access points, location of surveyors etc.; Reptile surveys – location of refugia – Consistent with other planning documents e.g. same numbering or names for buildings
What?• Discussion (1) – What do the survey results tell you? – Even if nothing was found – just as important. Very hard to prove absence – importance of robust methods. – Need for confidence and clarity so LPA is certain that any decision is robust and defensible. – Relate to surrounding habitats, linkages and landscape. – Consider distance e.g. 7.5km Mottisfont Bats SAC; Brent goose feeding areas near Solent SPAs – Consideration of relevant law and planning policy
What?• Discussion (2) – Impact assessment – ties results in with the development – Value of receptor / scale of impacts – Construction / operational impacts – Timescale of impacts – Avoidance measures? Have these been considered? – Mitigation – proportional to impacts – Compensation – Any residual impacts?
What?• Discussion (3) – Mitigation strategy – Must be clear, unambiguous and able to be secured by the LPA. – Must be developed in full discussion with the applicant. – Supported by plans, agreed with applicant – ‘Will’ not ‘Could’ – Can build in flexibility where appropriate through well- worded conditions – Applicant must read the report!
What?• Discussion (4) – Enhancements – Is in accordance with Paragraph 14 of PPS9 as well as Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 – ‘Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity’. Section 40(3) also states that ‘conserving biodiversity includes, in relation to a living organism or type of habitat, restoring or enhancing a population or habitat’.
What not?• Unsubstantiated statements relating to biodiversity.• Often included as a one-liner in Design and Access statements. No context or confidence.• For example…
What not?A bat survey was carried out on the adjoining plot as part of their planning process in 2008 and no evidence of bats was found on that site.
Key points to remember• Does the report help the applicant?• Are there unanswered questions?• Can the conclusions be defended?