Ecological and biodiversity survey

When is it required?

  • Proposed development which includes the modification conversion, demolition or removal of buildings and structures (especially roof voids) involving the following:

    • all agricultural buildings (e.g. farmhouses and barns) particularly of traditional brick or stone.
    • construction and/or with exposed wooden beams greater than 20cm thick.
    • all buildings with weather boarding and/or hanging tiles that are within 200m of woodland and/or water.
    • pre-1960 detached buildings and structures within 200m of woodland and/or water.
    • pre-1914 buildings within 400m of woodland and/or water.
    • pre-1914 buildings with gable ends or slate roofs, regardless of location.
    • all tunnels, mines, kilns, ice-houses, adits, military fortifications, air raid shelters, cellars and similar underground ducts, structures and caves.
    • all bridge structures, aqueducts and viaducts (especially over water and wet ground).
  • Proposals involving lighting of churches and listed buildings or flood lighting of green space within 50m of woodland, water, field hedgerows or lines of trees with obvious connectivity to woodland or water.
  • Proposals affecting woodland or field hedgerows and/or lines of trees with obvious connectivity to woodland or water bodies.
  • Proposals affecting gravel pits or quarries and natural cliff faces and rock outcrops with crevices, caves or swallets.
  • Major proposals within 500m of a pond or Minor proposals within 250m of pond.
  • Proposals affecting or within 30m of rivers, streams, canals, lakes, or other aquatic habitats.
  • Proposals affecting ‘derelict’ land (brownfield sites), allotments and railway land.
  • Proposals affecting previously undeveloped (Greenfield) land with the exception of domestic gardens and in some cases intensively farmed arable land.
  • Proposed development affecting any buildings, structures, feature or locations where protected or priority species or habitats are known to be present.
  • Proposed development on, adjacent to or otherwise affecting internationally, nationally or locally designated biodiversity or geodiversity sites.
  • Proposals affecting quarries, pits, cliffs, river sections, outcrops, mines, caves, tunnels, cuttings, and mine dumps.
  • On the request of Natural England, Environment Agency, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust or Staffordshire County Council.

What is this?

Ecological survey reports will include:

  • a description of the proposal;
  • a preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) (including desk study and field survey as necessary) of the development site and any other areas likely to be affected by the proposals;
  • evaluation of features (including geological and geomorphological features) and assessment of the likely impacts of the proposal;
  • discussion of how impacts have been avoided, mitigated and / or compensated– the mitigation strategy should be proportionate to the perceived impacts and should include clear, site-specific prescriptions rather than vague, general or indicative possibilities and should be feasible and deliverable;
  • details of how biodiversity net gain has been achieved, demonstrated using the relevant Defra metric.  From November 2023 the net gain must be at least 10%.  Metrics should be submitted in full.  For large or complex sites a Biodiversity Net Gain report is likely to be expected in addition.
  • Surveys will be completed at an appropriate time of the year by suitably qualified and experienced ecological consultants and will comply with published guidance and best practice.

Where Preliminary Ecological Appraisals conclude the need for further assessments these are to be carried out and submitted prior to validation. Surveys must be carried out at the appropriate time of the year. Production of further studies cannot be conditioned.

Due to confidentiality of the information, Badger Reports should be submitted separately to other ecological surveys.

Where proposals are likely to result in the loss or damage to SBIs or BASs clear justification should be based on comprehensive, relevant and up to-date data with reference to the national, regional or local contexts of the site and must accompany all planning applications.

If an SBI or BAS is damaged or destroyed, compensatory provision of equivalent value will be required.

Ecological surveys should consider the impact of the proposals on meeting the Water Framework Directive objectives particularly where development proposals have a watercourse flowing through the site, either in an open or culverted channel. The assessment should consider the current ecological status of the water body (as defined by the Humber River Basin Management Plan) and identify measures that could be taken to improve its current status and bring it towards it required status. It should ensure that the development proposals do not pose an obstacle to the meeting of its targets.

Why is this required?

Further advice

East Staffordshire Borough Council’s District Licensing Scheme for Great Crested Newts

Please be aware that all planning applications within an amber or red impact zone for great crested newts where impacts are likely to occur will be referred to NatureSpace Partnership for comment.  

The District Licensing Scheme for great crested newts is an alternative licensing option for planning applicants. This means that impacts on this species can be authorised by this planning authority as part of the planning process, rather than developers having to seek a separate great crested newt mitigation licence from Natural England following the grant of planning consent.

Natural England have produced Standing Advice (ADD REF/LINK) for all planning authorities using the District Licensing Scheme – available to view here - which explains that local planning authorities can rely on the ‘Impact Risk Zone’ maps to identify where great crested newts are likely to occur. In the higher risk areas (red and amber zones), planning applicants must now set out how risks to great crested newts will be dealt with. This may be through the Council’s District Licensing Scheme, or by applying separately to Natural England for a standard mitigation licence (with the submission of an appropriate mitigation strategy as part of the application). In green/white impact risk zones where there are suitable habitat and connectivity features for great crested newts then applicants may still be required to set out how risks to newts are to be dealt with.

Alternatively, if it can be demonstrated that there is no risk to great crested newts or their habitats then a licence may not be required for the development.

Without prejudice to due process and determination of planning applications, developers in this area are advised to consider which licensing options are available to them whether their proposal is likely to affect great crested newts and to ensure that the appropriate information is provided to support the planning application. 

There are now three licensing options in East Staffordshire Borough Council area. These are:

  • Joining the District Licence Scheme and being authorised by East Staffordshire Borough Council as part of the planning process (requiring the     submission of a NatureSpace Report or Certificate);
  • Applying directly to Natural England for a licence post-planning (requiring the submission of full great crested newt surveys and mitigation strategy); or
  • By working with a registered ecologist under the low impact class licence (requiring the submission of full great crested newt surveys and mitigation strategy).

NatureSpace are the council’s delivery partner in running the District Licensing Scheme. If applicants would like to explore the District Licensing option, they can submit an enquiry to NatureSpace to obtain a quotation (and/or a free, upfront assessment in most cases which provides a summary of all associated costs and requirements prior to joining). If a planning applicant wishes to opt into the District Licensing Scheme, they will need to present a NatureSpace Report or Certificate in support of their planning application. More information is available at  

Other Further Advice

Any development which might affect designated nature conservation sites e.g. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Special Area of Conservation (SACs), Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGs), Local Nature Reserves (LNRs), Sites of Biological Importance (SBIs), Biodiversity Alert Sites (BAS) and/or impact on protected species and other important wildlife interests (e.g. the conversion of redundant buildings).

All planning applications with the potential to destroy, damage or adversely affect any site, habitat or earth heritage feature should be supported by an impact assessment to a nationally recognised standard.

All planning applications on sites where protected or important species have been recorded, reported or can reasonably be expected to be present should be supported by survey work to properly demonstrate presence or absence. 

A protected species is one which received legal protection through UK or European legislation, including:

Important habitats and species are defined as:

  • Habitats or species which are the subject of national or local Biodiversity Action Plans
  • Habitats or species listed by the Government as habitats or species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England (section 41, Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006)

If a development is likely to impact on an internationally or nationally designated site, applicants are also advised to seek advice from Natural England about the scope of the assessment (0300 060 0723). 

Further guidance on survey standards, evaluation and impact assessment, and mitigation standards can be obtained using NATURAL ENGLAND GUIDANCE.

Natural England offers pre-application advice on certain developments. To further understand this service please follow this link Natural England Discretionary Advice Service. Natural England also provides Standing Advice in respect of protected species and mitigation. Guidance specific to Staffordshire can be found in Staffordshire Requirements for Biodiversity and Geological Conservation and Staffordshire Ecological Records and should be used to inform application submissions:

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (01889 880100)

For strategic major developments, applicants are advised to seek specialist expertise and to discuss their proposals with Staffordshire County Council’s Ecologist on 01785 277254 at an early stage in the design process.

The data search page of Staffordshire Ecological Record, is a good source of ecological and geological data for the county:

They also provide a pre-application biodiversity advice service- more details can be found here:  and to order select ‘biodiversity in section 3:

Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

CIEEM guidance on ecological impact assessment 

CIEEM find a consultant

CIEEM guidance on report writing: Survey data will only be acceptable if it the survey is carried out at the appropriate time of year. For precise guidance in respect of particular species please follow this link: Timing of Surveys

National Planning Practice Guidance