Before planning any development, it is important to consider the site's ecological value. Does it contain any rare or important habitats? Are there any protected species present? What impact will development have on wildlife? Failure to do so could result in costly delays, or even the dismissal of your application.
The best way to assess a site's current ecological value is to conduct a phase 1 habitat survey. This survey primarily aims to document and describe all habitat types present at a site, based principally on vegetation. At JCA, all phase 1 habitat surveys are conducted in accordance with the Joint Nature Conservation Committees (JNCCs) Handbook for Phase 1 Habitat Surveys.
In addition to documenting the habitat types present, the site's potential for supporting rare or protected species will also be assessed. If there is a high potential for one or more protected species being present at the site, further surveys will be recommended. Further surveys will only ever be recommended when it is considered truly necessary to avoid an offence being committed.
The final report will ultimately assess the site's current value for wildlife. Recommendations will always be given on how best to protect ecologically valuable features, or provide mitigation for the loss of any habitats, ensuring that the site's overall ecological value is retained or enhanced.
If requested, our reports can also include a desktop study. This will involve contacting local species record groups or ecological recording centres, to request all relevant records of protected species and designated sites. This can often assist in evaluating your site's potential for supporting rare or protected species and is usually requested by planning departments.
Phase 1 Habitat Survey Timeline:
As with many other ecological surveys, there are time constraints as to when phase 1 habitat surveys can be conducted. This is because plants within different habitat types will only be present at certain times of the year. Conducting surveys at sub-optimal times of the year may lead to important habitats or floral species being missed, and so you may be asked to redo a survey during the optimum time. Please see the optimal habitat survey timetable below.