Providing ecological surveys and reports to inform your planning application

You'll need to provide a survey if you're submitting a planning proposal that could impact biodiversity or any protected sites, habitats or species. You can check if your development proposal affects ecology or biodiversity using our checklist.

During the planning process, our ecologists will:

  • examine the need for ecological surveys and reports
  • examine the quality of the surveys and reports
  • make recommendations to the planning officer relating to ecological issues

It's important that ecological surveys are carried out:

  • by qualified competent personnel
  • at a specific, appropriate time of year
  • with enough time to ensure the appropriate level of survey has been carried out before applying for planning permission

Who should carry out surveys and reports

A competent consultant ecologist should carry out the required ecology survey work and reporting. They should have appropriate experience and hold relevant species licences for the type of habitat and species expected to be present.

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) provides a list of registered practices and consultant ecologist members.

You can search the CIEEM registered practice directory online.

You’ll need to make sure that your consultant ecologist knows that the purpose of the survey work and reporting is to inform a planning application and to make an assessment on the impact of the proposals. Your consultant ecologist should be able to advise on the surveys and reports required.

Types of ecological surveys and reports

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)

You’ll usually have to initially carry out a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal which identifies any likely ecological constraints, such as whether important species or protected sites, habitats or species are likely to be present.

It will also give appropriate recommendations which may include the need for mitigation or more detailed surveys to be carried out. The time of year when further surveys can be carried out is often restricted to when particular species are most active or visible.

Any additional surveys need to be carried out and reported on before the planning application is determined. The results of further surveys are important to inform mitigation strategies and the development proposals design.

The appraisal will also need to include up-to-date environmental records data provided by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre (BMERC).

More information about what to include in a PEA report can be found within the CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal.

Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)

Larger or more complex developments are typically informed by an Ecological Impact Assessment. The assessment is more detailed than that of a PEA and incorporates the findings of further surveys and provides mitigation solutions. The assessment allows for the likely impacts on ecological features to be determined and for an evaluation of the effect of the proposals upon important ecological features.

The EcIA should provide enough detail and clarity to ensure planning decisions are based on robust adequate information.

More information about what needs to be included within an EcIA can be found within the CIEEM Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment and the EcIA Checklist.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Report

You’ll usually have to submit a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) report to demonstrate how the project has achieved BNG, however there are some exceptions where this information is not required.

The report will detail how the project has followed the 10 principles of BNG (Biodiversity Net Gain: Good Practice Principles for Development, CIEEM) and include a BNG calculation using the latest Defra biodiversity metric.

For small sites of 9 or less dwellings and under 1ha, or under 0.5ha if dwelling number is unknown provided there is no priority habitat within the planning application’s red line boundary, Defra have a small sites metric.

We recommend that you begin to consider BNG at the start of your project so that you can plan for the associated surveys and build BNG into project design from an early stage. BNG requires habitat surveys using the UK Hab classification system as well as habitat condition assessments. If rivers or hedgerows are present, then these will also require survey and condition assessments following specific methodology set out by Defra.

More information about what to include in a BNG report can be found within the CIEEM Biodiversity Net Gain Report and Audit Templates guidance.

See our Biodiversity Net Gain page for how BNG can be achieved in Buckinghamshire.

If you’re unsure whether a survey is needed

You can contact us for pre-application advice.

There is usually a charge for this service.