Biodiversity & planning applications

Advice for applicants

Ecological surveys

Some planning proposals need surveys to assess and mitigate impacts on protected species and features.

Where it is identified that a planning proposal will have impacts on wildlife, these impacts should be mitigated. This is different to enhancement measures which are used to enhance the environment on the application site for wildlife. Your application should make it clear what is required for mitigation and what is proposed for enhancement.

Wildlife enhancement features

New development should enhance the environment for wildlife. Simple measures can be worked into most development projects to provide features for wildlife to use.

If you are applying for planning permission, wildlife enhancement can sometimes be part of a planning condition which requires further details (to be agreed with us later). To avoid additional applications and potentially costs due to a condition, enhancement measures can be detailed, and hopefully agreed, during the original planning application.

Generally enhancement measures should be:

  • Specific for the individual character of a site and the development proposal
  • Suitable for the scale and use of the proposed development
  • Detailed so the location, scale, style and purpose of the feature are clear (i.e. clearly shown on plans with text describing the measure(s)
  • Provide permanent or long-lasting features  
  • Well sited to increase the likelihood of its/their use

In householder development projects, such as extensions or new buildings, it is common to add permanent nesting features for nesting birds and/or roosting bats into the proposals. You may find the following links helpful when thinking about enhancement measures.  

Ecological consultants – top tips

Wildlife issues in relation to planning are complex and there will always be a need for discussion over specific issues, however we have identified the most common reasons that lead us to require clarification or further information from ecological reports. Most of these points could be addressed in the original report, reducing the likelihood of delays.

While this is not an exhaustive list we recommend that when commissioning or undertaking wildlife surveys and assessments you include the points laid out in the guidance:

Reptiles

Within very strict parameters, set out in the statement this document provides a method of working for sites where the risk to reptiles cannot be ruled out. In these situations where we consider it appropriate, we may require work to be carried out in accordance with the precautionary method of working rather than require the applicant to develop and submit their own for approval:

Permitted Development and Protected Species

The following document provides guidance on requirements in relation to protected species and permitted development.

Developments within 500m of a pond

Surveys have shown that great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) can be present in around 50% of ponds in some areas, with around 32% pond occupancy in the ‘South Midlands’ region (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and South Northamptonshire), which is higher than the national average.

Ponds are critical to great crested newts for breeding, but they are also dependent upon other habitats too, as they spend most of their life on land within suitable terrestrial habitats such as woodland, hedgerows, rough grassland and scrub, travelling up to 500 metres between ponds.

Great crested newts have protected status through UK and European legislation and must be considered as part of the planning application process. If present, we must be satisfied that the mitigation hierarchy is satisfied, whereby detrimental effects can be:

  • Avoided;
  • Mitigated; or

Where permission is granted, it may be necessary to incorporate safeguards as part of the development, as a planning condition and/or by legal agreement.

Currently, there are two ways to gain a licence in the Forest of Dean. These are by applying directly to Natural England for a licence or by joining the District Licence Scheme authorised by Forest of Dean District Council.

Natural England Licensing Route

  • Surveys will need to be carried out during the recognised season (mid-April to mid-May) to confirm the presence of great crested newts. A population size class assessment may also be needed.
  • When presence of great crested newts is confirmed, details of surveys, mitigation and compensation will need to be submitted and agreed with the local planning authority as part of a planning application in order to comply with legislation as well as national and local planning policy.
  • Planning permission is required before a licence application is made to Natural England.
  • Once planning permission has been granted, an application will need to be prepared and submitted to Natural England, including details of impacts, mitigation, compensation and monitoring. This would need to demonstrate that compensation will restore, grow or enhance the great crested newt population.
  • If great crested newts were considered to be absent from a development site, but are then subsequently discovered during construction, all works must cease and Natural England contacted for advice. A licence application may subsequently need to be submitted to Natural England for approval before works can re-commence.

The District Licensing Route

  • The development can become authorised under Forest of Dean District Council’s great crested newt district licence (approved by Natural England). This means that the developer can opt into joining the scheme as part of their planning application before great crested newt surveys are carried out, i.e. before the presence of great crested newts is known. This is achieved by contacting the delivery body (NatureSpace), who conduct an assessment to confirm that the development is eligible for this scheme.
  • Once a developer has joined the scheme, NatureSpace carry out a metric assessment, which embeds the mitigation hierarchy and identifies what level of compensation is required. Off-site compensation, monitoring and long-term habitat management is delivered by The Newt Conservation Partnership (NCP), a not-for-profit organisation. Compensation effort is focused on key high-quality habitats as part of a landscape-scale conservation plan for great crested newts.
  • All associated costs in joining the scheme are dependent on the development size, location (where it is sited on the Impact Risk Map) and the scale of impacts (the metric assessment). These are confirmed by NatureSpace once the developer has joined the scheme and before planning permission is granted by the local planning authority.

Contacts for further information on Forest of Dean’s licensing options:

A Strategy for the Conservation of Horseshoe Bats in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean (2016)

The strategy, which has been developed in collaboration with a range of organisations relevant to bat conservation in the cross border Wye Valley and Forest of Dean area, is composed of a number of objectives framed to support the current SSSI and SAC populations  in the long term through enhanced knowledge of the bats, positive management of their habitats, increased protection of sites not currently designated, and provision of new and enhanced roosting opportunities within the wider area.

Commonly Used Ecology and Landscaping Planning Conditions

Planning conditions can be used to make sure development is carried out in certain ways to protect wildlife or trees as well as ensuring  the quality of development. In this way making a scheme which would otherwise be unacceptable, acceptable.  To assist planners, applicants, agents and other stakeholders set out in the document below are some standard conditions in relation to a number of common ecology and landscape matters.  Their purpose and application is described further in the document.