Wiltshire’s natural environment is one of its greatest assets and includes a particularly large proportion of nationally and internationally important habitats and species.
New developments, large and small, can have a significant effect on our natural environment, with implications for important habitats, the wildlife species that they support and on the ability of people to experience and enjoy nature. It is vital to maintain and enhance wildlife corridors such as rivers and streams, hedgerows and wooded areas that allow wildlife species to move between different habitat areas, thus enabling their populations to be more resilient to change.
The National Planning Policy Framework published in March 2012 requires that planners and developers should aim to conserve and enhance the natural environment through the planning system. These pages offer advice on the measures you can take to ensure that your development meets the requirements of European and domestic legislation that protects our natural environment.
All new development should contribute proportionately to the enhancement of biodiversity and create habitat wherever possible, from small measures such as the installation of nest boxes to the design and integration of large Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDs) and even landscape-scale schemes of several hectares.
How should developments protect and enhance biodiversity?
Surveys provide valuable information
At the design stage of any development, the existing ecology of the site and surrounding area must be taken into consideration. Ecological assessment of the proposed location will identify existing habitats and species present on the site and any potentially damaging effects on them, as a result of the proposed development.
Ecological surveys and assessments should be:
- Carried out by suitably experienced, trained and qualified ecological consultants holding, where relevant, protected species licences.
- Carried out at appropriate times of year in suitable weather conditions – surveys conducted outside optimal times may be unreliable.
- Carried out to published guidelines and methodologies.
Consideration should also be given to how the proposed development fits into the existing landscape, including adjacent parks, open spaces, designated sites and gardens. All of these make a valuable contribution to green infrastructure and wildlife corridors in urban areas and the likely effects of development should not be overlooked.
It is important to note that an absence of evidence of a species does not necessarily mean that the species is not there, or that its habitat is not protected. Once an assessment of existing ecology has been carried out, the potential to enhance wildlife value within the new development should be evaluated.
Managing the risk of adverse effects during development
Avoidance of potential impacts should be a major factor in the design of the proposal and such measures should be outlined within the Design and Access statement.
Consideration should be given as to how this might be achieved, e.g. by moving the site boundary or by altering the construction method.
Mitigation will only be considered where potential impacts cannot be avoided. Natural England’s mitigation guidelines cover most protected species and should be referred to where appropriate.
Where necessary, mitigation should be proposed to reduce the unavoidable impacts of the development on the ecology of the site. Mitigation should be designed in accordance with established best practice, although innovative mitigation designs will be welcome providing they can demonstrate a high level of confidence that they will succeed. For further information please read avoidance, mitigation and compensation of impacts to biodiversity.
Instigating best practice on site for all but the smallest developments will require the production of a Construction Method Statement (CMS), which would normally be secured through a planning condition of any permission granted. The CMS will describe how each element of the proposal is to be carried out and what measures are taken at each stage to ensure the protection of biodiversity both within the site and in the surrounding area, and where it is possible that an impact may occur off site as a result of on site processes. For more on construction method statements please read writing a construction method statement to support a planning application.
Habitat enhancement (as required by the National Planning Policy Framework) should be specifically designed, to help meet targets set out in Wiltshire's Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) 7mb, for the latest Biodiversity Delivery Plan for Wiltshire please visit the Link2Nature web page. It should name the habitats/species it is designed to benefit and give justification as to its appropriateness. The consultant ecologist should input into the design of habitat enhancement which should be submitted as part of the planning application for approval by the local planning authority's planning officer and ecologist.
Relevant policy documents
- National Planning Policy Framework
- Wiltshire Core Strategy
- South Wiltshire Core Strategy
- Minerals Core Strategy and DPD
- Waste Core Strategy and DPD
Last updated: 21 February 2013