A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal is essentially an inventory of the habitats present within a pre-defined area of land, and a description of their structure and location. This inventory also identifies the conservation value of the habitats present in terms of intrinsic rarity, and, in combination with habitat outside the site, is used to identify which faunal (i.e. animal) species might be present, and their conservation value.

Where the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal has been performed as part of a planning application, the inventory may be used to decide whether additional focus botanical or faunal surveys would be worthwhile. This is particularly pertinent where it is more likely than not that a protected species might be present and, if they are, the quarry development proposed may negatively affect the population. In other situations, the information may be used to tailor a restoration scheme which aims to enhance the site for wildlife, in order to benefit species on the land that surround it in satisfaction of the requirements set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

The starting point of all Preliminary Ecological Appraisals is a Phase 1 Habitat Survey. How this information is extrapolated to predict the presence of legally protected plant and animal species differs from one ecological consultancy to another.

At AEcol we use an evidence-supported matrix known as the Predictive Ecological Assessment System. This matrix provides a reasoned, and therefore objective, inventory of the species, with a scale of probability in respect of the likelihood they might be present. The result is that every recommendation for a focus survey is supported by evidence. The same is true of a situation where we decide not to survey; if we cannot support a recommendation with evidence, we don’t spend your money.