The Planning Process
When a planning application is submitted and there is an ecological interest, the following sequence of events should happen:
- The developer or his agent requests a data search from our Biological Records for the area of interest. This is a desk-top search and will show existing records of protected and rare species and sites designated as important for nature conservation (local, national and international sites).
- The developer will then commission a survey of the site to provide up-to-date information, highlighting any ecological constraints.
- Once all the information has been collated it is presented as a planning application to the local authority who then sends it to the Trust for advice; they do this as very few local authorities have their own ecologists. We then consult a variety of documents and existing information held at the Trust such as the Ancient Woodland Inventory, Local Plan policies, the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), wildlife legislation and guidance and any other information we hold on or near the site.
What needs to be considered?
Factors taken into consideration are both indirect impacts on the site, such as drainage which may alter the water table affecting water levels in an adjacent pond, as well as direct impacts such as loss of habitat or damage to particular species.
We then consider whether the application is unacceptable – for example on prime BAP habitat, or when species protected by law are present and mitigation is not possible, in which case the Trust would object outright. Or whether it is acceptable because mitigation measures are part of the application, for example in the case of partially protected species, such as common reptiles.
What we say
The Trust cannot object to every application that may impact on wildlife. Species such as foxes, grey squirrels, deer and rabbits, alien and/or very invasive plant species such as Himalayan balsam, rhododendron etc, whilst of value to local residents, are not rare or protected by legislation and do not constitute grounds for substantive objections.
Some species are protected to a greater or lesser degree under wildlife legislation, and some habitats are less common in the county and need to be considered carefully in any response.
The Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan identifies habitats that are important in the county and we would object to proposals that destroy such habitats. Some species have full protection, including the habitat and the animal itself, others are protected from harm and killing, some just from sale.
Objecting to everything would remove all credibility and devalue our standing as advisors on nature conservation to the local authorities in Surrey.
Biodiversity & Planning in Surrey – Local Authorities Guidance Documents
Biodiversity & Planning in Surrey - Nov 2010
Biodiversity & Planning in Surrey, Appendix I - Nov 2010
Biodiversity & Planning in Surrey, Appendix II - Dec 2010