What is the Wildlife Assessment Check?
Whether a development site is in a rural or urban area, it’s vital that wildlife and habitats are considered to avoid habitat loss, fragmentation and the damaging impact of daily human activity on the land.
Development sites can put pressure on the biodiversity of a particular habitat, predominantly those threatened species that are classified as ‘protected’ and ‘priority’ species. ‘Protected’ species are protected by law, as outlined by Natural England. These include bats, hazel dormice, water voles, natter jack toads and many plant species. ‘Priority’ species are classified as the most threatened and requiring conservation, of which there are currently 1,150 in the UK.
This is why the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning has created the ‘Wildlife Assessment Check’ tool. The tool is free and accessible online without the need for creating an account and it will consider whether there are any protected or priority wildlife species in the area you intend to do works.
Who is it for?
Smaller developers may be unaware that it is a statutory requirement for local authorities to consider the ecological impact of developments, and to promote a positive contribution to biodiversity. This can result in delays and additional knock-on costs, such as when unforeseen ecological surveys have to be carried out during particular seasons. So, if you’re a homeowner with a desire for a new kitchen extension, or a small-scale developer working on a project, the Wildlife Assessment Check tool can reduce delays and unexpected costs by assessing your land early on.
How does it work?
It’s a free online tool that’s easy to use and allows you to check whether you’ll need expert ecological advice before you even submit your planning application. You simply enter information such as your postcode, the type of work you intend to have done, and answer some quick questions about the site.
Once you’ve completed the check, which takes about 5 minutes, the tool will tell you whether your project is likely to require professional ecological advice. It will also give you details of the potential wildlife that will need to be considered, plus it will provide you with a report for you to download and give to the consultant ecologist and submit it as part of your planning application.
“Its very straight forward and simple to use, particularly the map at the start is fast and easy.” A planning applicant
Why is it important?
Since 1970 many UK wildlife species have been in decline, with over 1,200 species now extinct or threatened with extinction (State of nature report, 2016). One of the factors that has caused this decline is land use changes from urban development. New development projects in the UK have a wide-ranging impact on our wildlife. Protected and priority species are threatened when developments change or damage the structure of the natural environment. Sensitive landscape design can helps threatened species like hedgehogs and swallows recover.
According to the Association of Local Government Ecologists only around one in three local authorities have in-house ecological expertise (ALGE 2013). This means that planning officers may have to appraise the ecological implications of development proposals without direct ecological competence or are required to seek external expertise to do so. Therefore the Wildlife Assessment Check also aims to support local planning authorities in meeting their statutory duty regarding biodiversity, especially those who lack in-house ecological capacity, by encouraging applicants to take responsibility in addressing ecological considerations.
“The feedback from our technicians validating applications is that it is very useful as a tool” Local planning officer
Considering local ecology early will also hopefully prevent projects incurring delays, unexpected costs, and prevent the need to reassess potential ecological impacts during a planning application.
You can access the tool on Biodiversity in Planning’s website here and find out more information.
The Wildlife Assessment Check has been developed by the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning, a partnership of 19 organisations and is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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