Ecology

Do I need a wildlife report?

Most development proposals, with the exception of some very small householder applications, will have the potential to impact local wildlife or biodiversity (a term referring to all species of plants and animals and their habitats.)

In this guidance, the term “wildlife” refers to:

  • Ecology
  • Biodiversity
  • Legally protected species
  • Priority species
  • Priority habitats
  • Designated sites
  • Nature conservation

A wildlife report will or may be required for all developments meeting any of the criteria below.

Biodiversity Checklist

In addition, we have produced a Biodiversity Checklist which must be submitted with certain types of application. This will prompt applicants to carry out any necessary surveys prior to the submission of an application. 

  1. Greenfield, brownfield land, allotments or large areas of garden

    Development on these types of land will usually require a wildlife report, if:

    • The site (red line boundary) is greater than 0.1 hectares
    • If any other criteria apply (existing buildings, trees and woodland, hedges, ponds and watercourses are present on the site or nearby)
    • Any legally protected species are present or affected.

    Exceptions:

    • The site is solely hardstanding in an urban area.
    • Sport pitches (regularly and recently mown) in urban areas. And, for both of the above, lacking any hedges, significant trees, vegetation and badger setts.
    • The site is already developed, lacking any significant greenspace, and not meeting any of the criteria that apply to existing buildings.

  2. Existing buildings and structures

    This includes:

    • Development of existing buildings, including conversions, extensions, alterations.
    • Demolition or removal.
    • Householder, agricultural, equestrian, commercial and community properties.

    Bats can roost within gaps as narrow as 1cm. Their presence isn’t often obvious to the owner or occupier, and so the gaps or roost potential are easily overlooked. Bats are widespread in South Somerset and are present to a greater or lesser extent in most locations.

    A bat survey (or “Bat and Bird” survey) is required, either alone or as part of a wider wildlife report, if your proposal involves works to:

    • Roof structures including soffits, fascia and bargeboards, chimneys, and flashing.
    • House extensions that tie in to an existing enclosed roof space or affect any part of the roofline of the existing property.
    • Lofts or any enclosed unconverted roof space.
    • Outbuildings (including domestic)
    • Timber cladding or weatherboarding
    • Hanging tiles (as wall cladding).
    • Cellars, culverts, and other partly or fully underground voids greater than 1 cubic metre in volume.
    • Derelict buildings (structures with roofs), including renovation.
    • Barns, farm buildings and stables (structures with roofs).
    • Workshops, factories and other industrial or commercial buildings.
    • Schools, hospitals and other community buildings.
    • Any building or structure with known current or historic bat use.

    Bat surveys are not usually needed for:

    • Buildings less than 15 years old.
    • Conservatories with glazed roof.
    • Garages (of typical size and construction) in urban areas provided there’s no enclosed roof void.
    • Metal or single skinned garages and sheds.
    • Prefabricated with steel and sheet materials (some agricultural and commercial buildings).
    • Flat roof buildings with no external features such as cladding, soffits, barge boards or fascia.
    • Single storey extensions that do not tie into the roof space.

    If you are still unsure about whether you need a report, you can get pre-application advice.

  3. Trees, woodland and orchards

    This includes those outside of your site boundary:

    • Up to 5 metres away for householder applications.
    • Up to 20 metres away for other applications.

    Bats of several species are known to roost in trees. Trees may also provide important dark areas, favoured by some species of bat, close to roosts in buildings. Lines of trees are also used by bats as commuting routes between their roosts and foraging areas, and trees also support insects which bats feed upon.

    A wildlife report, assessment or survey for bats may be required if any of the following are present on the site or nearby:

    • Trees with a diameter larger than 10cm (including fruit trees) with holes, cracks, cavities, loose bark, woodpecker holes, or ivy.
    • Very large, very mature, and veteran trees.
    • Trees with a circumference greater than 1m (or diameter greater than 30cm) at breast height.
    • Lines (4 or more) of semi-mature or mature trees with a diameter greater than 10cm.
    • Tree belts.
    • Woodland.
    • Orchards.

    If you are still unsure about whether you need a report, you can get pre-application advice.

    In some of these cases, you may also need a tree (or arboricultural) assessment.

  4. Hedges and scrub

    This includes:

    • Sites with more than 20 metres of existing boundary (or internal) hedge.
    • Removal of hedge for new accesses or highway visibility.

    This does not include:

    • Householder applications, unless any affected boundary hedge (for example, partial or full removal of) is also the boundary of a field, paddock, or open countryside.

    The dormouse is a ‘priority’ and legally protected species that inhabits some hedges (and scrub) and can be particularly vulnerable to removal of this habitat, or to other indirect development impacts.

    Slow worms are ‘priority’ and protected species that can be present in fields containing scrub.

    Nesting birds can be present in hedges and scrub and are protected whilst nesting.

    Amphibians, including the legally protected great crested newt can be present in hedge bases.

    Hedges themselves are a ‘priority habitat’ and also act as ecological corridors, both of which planning policies seek to conserve and enhance.

    A wildlife report and/or assessment or survey for protected species, may be required if any of the following apply:

    • Application sites with more than 20 metres of existing boundary (or internal) hedge (even if it is to be retained).
    • Removal of hedge for new accesses or highway visibility.
    • Removal of any blocks of scrub (including bramble) that exceeds 4m2 in area.

    If you are still unsure about whether you need a report, you can get pre-application advice.

  5. Ponds, lakes and canals

    This includes those that dry out in the summer.

    It also includes those outside of your site boundary:

    • Up to 25 metres away for householder applications.
    • Up to 250 metres away for other (minor) applications.
    • (Up to 500 metres for major applications).

    Great crested newts, a legally protected species, are found in some ponds. The ponds are used for breeding in the spring. At other times of the year, the newts are on land, typically up to 250 metres away from the pond. This makes them vulnerable to construction and development activity.

    Great crested newts aren’t normally present in (and you won’t require a survey for):

    • Small, ornamental garden fish ponds.
    • Commercial fishing lakes.

    Initially, a professional assessment should be done (this may be part of a wider wildlife report) that includes a ‘Habitat Suitability Index’ assessment of the pond, along with an assessment of the suitability for newts of any terrestrial habitat and hibernation potential on the application site. 

    Other factors that are also considered are size of your site, distance between the site and the pond, and other features of the landscape in the vicinity of the pond. Generally, these assessments can only be made by a qualified ecologist or ecological consultant.

    If the above assessment concludes that there is a risk of great crested newts being present and harmed by your proposed development, you will need to undertake a further detailed survey of the pond to establish whether or not great crested newts are actually present or not.

    If you are still unsure about whether you need a report, you can get pre-application advice.

  6. Watercourses

    Watercourse is a general term for streams, rhynes, rivers and major ditches. 

    This includes those outside of your site boundary:

    • Up to 5 metres away for householder applications.
    • Up to 50 metres away for other applications.

    Otter and water vole are both legally protected species that are dependent upon watercourses, and can be vulnerable to the impacts of development.

    Some species of bats forage and commute along watercourses and can be vulnerable to disturbance from an increase in artificial lighting.

    Watercourses, along with their associated bank-side vegetation, act as ecological corridors that we seek to protect and enhance for the benefit of a wide range of wildlife.

    If you are still unsure about whether you need a report, you can get pre-application advice.

  7. Lighting developments

    This includes floodlighting (for example, at sports or recreation facilities) and external lighting of listed or historic buildings and structures.

    An assessment for bats (possibly including a bat roost or activity survey) will be required for lighting proposals for:

    • External lighting of listed or historic buildings and structures.
    • Floodlighting of sports and recreational facilities, and ménages

    Unless the site is more than 50 metres from any:

    • Mature trees
    • Woodlands
    • Hedges (excluding residential properties)
    • Lines of trees
    • Watercourses or ponds
    • Known bat roosts

    If you are still unsure about whether you need a report, you can get pre-application advice.

  8. Designated sites

    Generally, we do not advise planning a development within a designated site.

    An ecological assessment:

    • Will be required for all applications within a designated site.
    • May be required for applications adjacent or close to a designate site.

    Sites designated for nature conservation include:

    Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

    These are designated by Natural England and are generally considered to be of national importance. Their locations and boundaries can be viewed on Defras ‘MAGIC’ website.

    Local Wildlife Sites (LWS)

    Also called ‘County Wildlife Sites’, these are designated by the Somerset Local Sites Partnership (made up of the Somerset Environment Records Centre, Somerset Wildlife Trust and local authorities).

    Only sites meeting published criteria are designated. These criteria are based upon habitat type and quality, and size of the site. These sites are generally considered to be of county importance, although some may be of comparable importance to the nationally important SSSI’s.

    Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area (SPA)

    Special Protection Area under the EC Birds Directive.

    Our Local Plan shows many of these sites. However, this isn’t fully up to date.

    For up to date data, you’ll need to commission a data search from the Somerset Environmental Records Centre. This is often done by the ecological consultant who will use the data to inform their assessment.

    If you are still unsure about whether you need an assessment, you can get pre-application advice.

  9. Major developments

    Applications for all types of ‘major’ development should be accompanied by a wildlife report.

    A major proposal is one that is more than 10 dwellings or more than 0.5 hectares or, for non-residential development, is more than 1000m2 floor area or more than 1 hectare.

    They should usually include a data search from the Somerset Environmental Records Centre.

    While there are other sources of ecological data available, the completeness and resolution of these data sources are not sufficient for planning applications.

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