Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)
The Phase 1 habitat survey is one of the first stages within the ecological assessment process and it is a technique for environmental audit that is widely used within the consultancy field. A Phase 1 habitat survey is a system of habitat classification and mapping that records baseline information about a site. The process is widely recognised within environmental and planning disciplines and preliminary ecological appraisals are frequently requested to support planning applications by the Local Planning Authority.
The Phase 1 habitat survey is extended ‘extended Phase 1 habitat survey’ which identifies habitats that are suitable to support protected species or species of conservation concern. The survey also records direct signs of protected and invasive species, or any other significant ecological component within a site and the surrounding area.
As part of the preliminary ecological appraisal, an experienced ecologist walks over the site and a desktop study undertaken which is office based.
The preliminary ecological appraisal identifies potential ecology issues or constraints which should advise the development design. Further species/habitat surveys may be recommended, if deemed to be required.
If further surveys are recommended and once the development proposals have been designed, it is best practice for more complicated sites that the preliminary ecological appraisal is updated and turned into an ecological assessment report.
Ecological Assessment – is undertaken by an experienced ecologist and involves looking at the results of further species reports, assesses the impacts of a development in more detail and provides mitigation to off-set any losses, looking to achieve biodiversity gains to satisfy Government planning policy guidance. The recommendations are usually incorporated into the Landscape Scheme.
There are situations where losses cannot be mitigated for onsite, this is where off-site compensation is required. Offsite compensation is usually considered as a last resort, because it involves other landowners/conservation bodies agreeing to implement offsite works. There are biodiversity calculators that can assist this process.