Responses to some frequently asked questions raised by users about the Wildlife Assessment Check:
Who is the Wildlife Assessment Check for?
The Wildlife Assessment Check is designed for householders and small to medium-sized developers, to help clarify whether a development project needs expert ecological advice before submitting a planning application.
How does the Wildlife Assessment Check work?
The ‘How-to-Guide’ explains the four checks in the Wildlife Assessment Check, where applicants are invited to answer a series of questions about the location, type of development, site works and local habitats. Linked to these questions are national species distribution maps and data triggers for habitats and development works that are associated to UK ‘protected’ and ‘priority’ wildlife species*. The tool produces a summary of how applicants have answered the questions and gives them an opportunity to revise their selections. A ‘Results’ page indicates whether professional ecological advice is recommended for the proposed site. It also provides a list of the potential species and species groups that could be considered by the ecological consultant. The tool identifies proximity of the proposed site to any ‘statutory designated sites’, such as Sites of Special Scientific Importance (SSSIs) and Special Protected Areas (SPAs).
*Note: The national maps do not always pick up local species data, so we would always advise that the consultant also seeks additional information from the local environmental record centre and Local Wildlife Groups, as well as through conducting a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal.
What are ‘protected’ and ‘priority’ species?
Local planning authorities must consider how a development might affect ‘protected’ and ‘priority’ species on or near a proposed development site when reviewing a planning application. ‘Protected’ species are those wildlife species protected by law, as outlined by Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and Northern Ireland Environment Agency (e.g. badgers, bats, hazel or common dormice, great crested newts, invertebrates, natterjack toads, otters, reptiles, water voles, wild birds, protected plants). ‘Priority species’ were those that were identified as being the most threatened and requiring conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). There are currently 1,150 UK BAP priority species.
What should I do with the Wildlife Assessment Check results?
The Wildlife Assessment Check results page will indicate whether your project is likely to require professional ecological advice before making a planning application and provides details of the potential protected and priority wildlife species that may need to be considered by a consultant ecologist. A short ‘Summary report’ of the results will be produced which you can download and save. You can give the report to a consultant ecologist for their background information and submit it as part of your planning application, together with any additional ecological information the consultant ecologist produces, such as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Ecological Impact Assessment.
Do I need to do a Wildlife Assessment Check when obtaining consent for works on a ‘listed building’ or conducting building works that do not require planning consent (i.e. a ‘permitted development’)?
Yes, you can use the Wildlife Assessment Check to consider the potential ecological impact of development activities on listed buildings or a permitted development. This will help highlight if legally protected or priority wildlife species may be affected by your development project.
What happens if my local authority ecology officer disagrees with the findings of the Wildlife Assessment Check?
The Wildlife Assessment Check is for guidance only and aims to provide additional support where local authorities have limited in-house local ecological capacity. It does not supersede local authority ecological knowledge, where it exists, which will always take priority.