This survey can be carried out at any time of year and it is advised it is instructed early in the planning process to inform the planning timescale in case further survey work is required.
An ecological appraisal or phase 1 survey is the initial assessment of a site to look at what rare, protected and notable species of plants and animals and habitats may be present and determine if any further survey work is required in relation to the impact of the proposals.
Ecological appraisals are based on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee guidelines to assess the habitats present on or adjacent to a site and in line with CIEEM guidelines. Protected Species guidance from Natural England is used to identify the potential of a site for protected species that may be present.
Recommendations are then made to avoid or reduce impacts or further surveys (Phase 2 protected species / habitat surveys) are recommended to accurately determine the presence or absence of specific protected species. This level of survey is now required at the planning stage of a project by the relevant local or county planning authority.
Desk Top Surveys are included as part of the Phase 1 Survey Methodology although these can be carried out separately if need be to determine the impact of a proposal. These usually involve a data-gathering exercise to obtain any available information relating to statutory and non-statutory nature conservation sites, priority habitats and species, and legally protected and controlled species. Sources of information used include:
- Local Records Centres
- Natural England
- MAGIC - Multi-Agency Geographical Information for the Countryside
- Ordnance Survey Maps
- Local Biodiversity Action Plans