One of the issues we commonly encounter, when working for clients who manage new developments, is timing. Work programmes for planning applications, which concern extensions of facilities, new buildings, change of use or increased capacity, require an integrated approach to planning, highway, architectural, engineering and budgetary delivery, whilst the client also needs to run their core business.
We often see mistakes made when considering landscape, ecological issues and trees and woodlands because the impacts on programmes, budgets and design resolutions are not considered at the very start of the process.
A few examples may illustrate why earlier identification of issues is critical:
We are able to consider desktop and web based records of species distribution and concentrations throughout the UK, and undertake site walkovers to consider implications for species surveys and mitigation plans. The big issue encountered is that most species have an optimal window when surveying is possible. If this is not considered at the start of the development process, this puts a delay upon the production and delivery of mitigation solutions and relocation plans which may be appropriate for the site. Many species migrate, others hibernate, and there can be breeding exclusions and periods when site clearance cannot take place.
If we miss surveying opportunities, surveying and mitigation may be delayed for a whole year.
Once surveys identify that a species exists, licensing to manage, handle or relocate can take more than a year, and a planning and building programme can be negatively impacted.
Trees and woodlands
Trees and woodlands are the emotive frontline of planning, being highly visible and existing over long periods. Conservation Areas, Tree Preservation Orders and Woodland Felling Licences may firstly also interface with ecology timelines, and then require extended consultation before works can proceed.
Early assessment of the issues, risks and opportunities associated with trees, woodlands and works programmes is essential.
Assessing landscape character at the start of the programme can prevent problems of design at the outset, and can often assist the whole design team and planners to better understand issues and come to a consensus on approach more easily.
If ecology, trees and woodlands are all placed in an appropriate landscape masterplan, our experience is that the application process naturally works more smoothly, and are perceived to be more holistic in conception and often win hearts and minds.
Integrating your approach
Our experience is that, when clients consider ecology, trees and landscapes early, costs are lower, planning durations are shorter, species and habitat management is smoother and construction implementation programmes are more likely to be on time.
Eight expert tips to save money on ecology.
1. Choose your site carefully - A site comprising low ecological value will bring far fewer associated ecological costs with it. The number of surveys required prior to the construction phase will be less, and work restrictions and biodiversity impacts minimal.
2. Incorporate ecology at the design stage - Considering ecology prior to the design stage will allow you to work with ecology rather than against it. Consider ecology early on in the process to reduce ecological impacts and the risk of delays in the planning process. By incorporating existing ecological features, mitigation costs can be considerably reduced.
3. Submit all the ecological information to Planning at the right time - Planning Authorities require ecological information at the decision making stage, in accordance with national, regional and local planning policy. Failure to consider ecological issues and protected species when developing a site could result in a court case and considerable fines - damaging your profits and your reputation.
4. Plan in time for seasonal surveys - A number of ecological surveys can only be carried out at certain times of the year. It is possible that you may require ecological surveys spread over a period of up to twelve months. Consider ecological issues in the winter to prepare for spring, when the peak surveying season begins.
5. Manage your site during the pre-development period - Disused sites soon become inhabited by wildlife. To ensure that the ecological status of your land is unchanged, it must be carefully managed.
6. Cost effective ways to enhance your site - As well as protecting the existing ecology on site, national, regional and local planning policy now requires that you also take ecological enhancement measures. Suitable enhancements will help you get on through the planning process.
7. Listen to your ecological consultant - Getting a consultant's advice early in the project can save you time, money and headaches. Ignoring expert advice from your ecologist could lead to criminal offences being committed.
8. Read the ecologists reports - It is important that you know what is required in the way of surveys and mitigation/ enhancement. Ignoring method statements, i.e. the legal requirements for protected species associated with Natural England licensing, can lead to committing criminal offences and the associated fines.
To summarise, the main point is that early consideration of ecological issues on a site can significantly reduce the potential for delays and additional costs on a development project.
Should you require further information, or wish to discuss any projects you have in mind, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Pete Harris MIEEM, Consultant Ecologist and Arboriculturist, Landscape Planning Ltd.
Tel: 01206 752539