AEcol - Predictive Ecological Assessment System

In 2013 the British Standards Institute published BS42020 Biodiversity - Code of practice for planning and development.

The Standard recommends that developers and Planning Authorities consider not only legally protected species, but all UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Habitats and Species. To put this in context, in terms of the number of species that now need to be considered, there are currently:-

  • 424 legally protected and/or UK BAP Priority Species of invertebrates;
  • 18 legally protected and/or UK BAP Priority Species of freshwater-fish;
  • 4 legally protected and/or UK BAP Priority Species of amphibians;
  • 6 legally protected and/or UK BAP Priority Species of reptiles;
  • 122 Schedule 1 and/or UK BAP Priority Species of birds; and
  • 29 legally protected and/or UK BAP Priority Species of mammals (including bats).

 This amounts to a total 603 species that need consideration, even before considering the potential for ‘important assemblages’ of Red Data Book or Nationally Scarce species.

 BS42020 is significant as it was defined by members of both Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE), who are the end-users of ecological material gathered by developers in support of planning applications.

 Mineral, Solar and Forestry developments typically occupy large areas of land, which may hold a wide variety of habitats and therefore species.

 In order to ensure AEcol’s clients satisfy the criteria set out within BS42020 we produced the AEcol Predictive Ecological Assessment System for the interpretation of large Phase 1 survey data-sets. This system is unique to our consultancy.

AEcol - Research & Development - Always thinking ahead!

 The idea behind the AEcol Predictive Ecological Assessment System was threefold:- 

  1. To define a repeatable mechanism for analysis;
  2. To ensure the interpretation of Phase 1 data was performed to the same standard, regardless of the size of location of the site; and
  3. To provide a reasoned hypothesis of which legally protected and UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species might potentially be present within each habitat type.

 We believe assessments of the value of particular habitats need a standardised framework. Our objective was therefore to remove subjectivity from the early stages of ecological assessments.

 The AEcol Predictive Ecological Assessment System makes sensible use of historic data, field survey data and the full county flora and fauna in order to provide a reasoned hypothesis of the potential site value (i.e. from the developer's point of view the ‘worst-case-scenario).

 By identifying all the potential legally protected and UK BAP taxa potentially present within a site, we ensure (within reason) that no group is overlooked or given subordinate status due to surveyor bias.

 This ensures (again, within reason) that recommendations for further survey, or the omission of surveys, are supported on a reasoned foundation.

 In the latter situation, all the evidence can be presented during scoping to say; we don’t believe there would be any merit in further survey of this Taxa on the basis of the known ecology of this species in this location.

 However, where further survey is advocated it has a supporting hypothesis. This means our clients understand why we have recommended a specific course of action (i.e. why we are spending their money).

 However, the real benefit is that it enables our clients to request a 'without prejudice' opinion from the County Ecologist, as to whether the suite of surveys advocated meet the requirements set out within policy etc.

 By gaining this 'without prejudice' opinion, our clients avoid the uncertainty of their scheme getting to the 11th hour and being held up by requests for more, or even entirely different, surveys.

  At the same time, the information provided gives the developer the opportunity to tailor their scheme from the outset, as they can see where the greatest biodiversity potential lies. They can then use this information if they wish to avoid certain habitats, or to consider the cost implications of translocation, creation or enhancement.

 Upon first receipt of one of our reports, many clients have expressed surprise at the volume of information, but have been later calmed when they realised that the greater percentage of the information comprises technical appendices of supporting evidence that they do not need to wade through.

 However, thus far our system has received very favourable feedback from ALGE members and our clients have reported significant improvements in terms of speeding consideration of their applications up, avoiding conflict and simplifying the whole process.

 In the end, the objective is planning permission with minimum fuss, and our system gives you just that!

 If you would like to know more, then call us on 01278 429290 or email our Principal Ecologist; Henry Andrews at henry.andrews@aecol.co.uk

 If you are a Planner, we would be happy to provide you more information, including excerpts from our report template, so you can see exactly what you would get for your money. We are confident you will benefit from working with us, and adopting the AEcol Predictive Ecological Assessment System within your projects.