A precautionary approach should be taken to establish whether any particular development is likely to have a significant effect on ecology (wildlife and their habitats).
If a development has a significant local ecological impact, the applicant will be required to submit an ecological survey and assessment.
The situations where ecology is likely to be affected by development generally (but not exclusively) includes:
- Internationally, nationally and locally designated statutory sites;
- European and nationally protected species
- Non-statutory designated sites e.g. Local Wildlife Sites (formerly known as Areas of Natural History Interest)
- Habitats and Species of Principal Importance (listed under S41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006)
- Significant populations of national or locally threatened species (‘Red List’ species defined by IUCN or locally)
- Ancient woodland
Developments that affect sites of national or international environmental importance or give rise to complex environmental impacts are likely to require an Environmental Statement under the Environmental Impact Regulations.
Protected species in Sheffield
The protected species that are common to this area are identified in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc) Regulations 1994, which includes schedules of European protected species of animals and plants. Specific legislation for protecting badgers is provided by the Badgers Act, 1992. Should you be in doubt you should seek expert advice.
Those most commonly affected by developments in Sheffield include (but not exclusively): badgers; bats; great crested newts; water voles; white clawed crayfish, otters and nesting birds (other than pests).
If the site has or is likely to have the habitat of any protected species or is used by protected species, a (sometimes licensable) survey from a specialist ecological consultant will be needed.
Ecological interest areas in Sheffield
Ecological interest areas are identified in the Unitary Development Plan and on the Proposals Map or through contacting the Ecology Unit.
The Ecology Unit should be contacted early in the planning process to ascertain the need for and scope of any Ecological Assessment.
Ecology information required
The assessment could require either a full ecological survey and report or an individual species survey and report. In some cases, surveys can only be carried out at specific times of the year, which may delay submission or prevent validation of application. Surveys should be up to date and ideally from the most recent survey season (this can vary depending on the species). Surveys should be submitted with an application and not left to Condition.
Any assessment should follow a mitigation hierarchy i.e. avoid impacts, then to mitigate unavoidable impacts, and, as a last resort, to compensate for unavoidable residual impacts that remain after avoidance and mitigation measures, and include proposals for the long term maintenance and management of wildlife and any remaining areas of ecological value.
The Ecology Unit can provide details of local experts able to carry out specialised species or habitat assessments using local knowledge.We should be alerted to any issues relating to badger setts, because the location of these will not normally be published online with other application details, due to the exceptional threats to this species.
Natural England provide standing advice for protected species and guidance in respect of wildlife and development. They can also help with the separate licensing process.
Sheffield Local Records Centre or other appropriate data providers (e.g. Sheffield Bird Study Group, South Yorkshire Badger Group, South Yorkshire Bat Group) should be approached initially for species and habitat information to inform desk studies.
It is a requirement of Natural England’s class licenses for protected species surveys that licensees submit records collected under the terms of those licenses to the Local Records Centre.