Pre-acquisition Audits & Purchaser
JFA Environmental Planning recommends that prospective purchasers check a site’s potential ecological constraints before purchasing. This can greatly help with purchase negotiations and help you understand if ecology is likely to create additional costs or constrain development of a site.
Such surveys are not very expensive. A senior ecologist will visit the site, assess the likelihood of species present and write a short letter report, discussing any concerns you might have over the telephone. This can provide peace of mind for purchasers and minimise time spent negotiating a fair price.
Phase 1 Habitat Surveys
Phase 1 habitat surveys form the foundation of what we do. They are generally required to accompany a planning application, and form the basis for further work if necessary on a site.
Standard guidance is always followed in conducting these surveys, which usually comprise the following format:
By collecting robust information during the Phase 1 survey, JFA Environmental Planning ensures that not only is this sufficient to support a planning application, but that the results can also be used, where required, to inform a Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH) / BREEAM assessment. This is by far the most efficient way to incorporate all the preliminary ecology work to support an application.
JFA Environmental Planning always note opportunities for ecological enhancement that can arise out of the development proposals. This follows current and emerging policy on biodiversity, and is also a CfSH requirement.
Other planning application support
JFA Environmental Planning often work with the development team – architects, engineers, town planners – in the process of site layout and master planning. We can assist clients in advising on site planning to minimise or eliminate costly and time-consuming ecological impacts, and find that our involvement at this stage can greatly benefit a proposal, in terms of speed of delivery and cost.
CfSH/BREEAM assessments are now a mandatory requirement for some developments and in some areas of the UK. Generally, if mandatory, it is required to meet the desired Code level usually at least 3 or greater. This can in part be met by evaluating the ecological value of the site pre- and post-development. There is a standard methodology for this, either using a checklist format or a report format.
If CfSH assessment is incorporated into the initial baseline, then a detailed list of species found is prepared and recommendations for enhancement are included in the Phase 1 report.
When the baseline has been completed, either as part of the Phase 1 survey or as a separate exercise, then the CfSH/BREEAM full assessment can be completed.
Full EIA is only occasionally required for projects, but JFA Environmental Planning has many years of experience in delivering EIA to meet the requirements of legislation. The process requires that a scope of ecological issues be identified, and this follows a basic Phase 1 Habitat Survey. A scoping report is then prepared.
The scoping report is agreed through the competent authority (usually the LPA) who contacts statutory consultees, such as the Environment Agency and Natural England, as well as their own officers. When the scope of the EIA has been agreed, further surveys may be required, usually for protected species or for semi-natural habitats of importance.
A full technical report is then prepared, which is appended to the main Environmental Statement (ES). This document summarises the findings of the Technical Appendices, which include all work for all areas that were included in the original scoping exercise.
Once submitted, the local planning authority has an extended period to consider the application and the EIA.
Producing an EIA is costly and time-consuming. As it is often avoidable, JFA Environmental Planning can assist an a client early on in “screening out” or “scoping out” and reduce both the time and the costs associated with the planning application process.
Scoping & Screening Opinions for EIA
It is quite common for the LPA to raise the issue of the need for an EIA early in the planning application process. Guidance from central government on EIA is quite clear, and the thresholds for mandatory EIA are fairly high. In the majority of cases where the LPA may request an EIA the legislation makes it possible to “screen out” a proposal. This is done by presenting to the local authority a short report summarising why the proposals, by reason of scale or lack of likely significant impacts, does not require an EIA.
The report, called a Screening Request, needs to be supported by some basic preliminary assessment of likely significant impacts. For ecology, this is a Phase 1 survey. Following the survey a screening request can be made, and it would be comprehensive and include a summary of findings in other areas where likely significant impacts are unlikely.
The Screening Request asks the competent authority to screen out the application from the EIA process. If they fail to do so, they must present their reasons why. If the applicant is not satisfied with the response of the local planning authority, there is an appeal process whereby the DCLG reviews the Screening Request.
JFA Environmental Planning have undertaken a number of these and are happy to help clients if they wish to take this route.
This is similar to a screening request. However, it assumes that an EIA is required for an application, but seeks to limit the areas covered by the EIA. The process is similar to the Screening Request, but makes the case that certain areas need not undergo the EIA process as they will be unlikely to give rise to significant environmental impacts. The application and appeal process is similar to that for a Screening Request.
Phase 2 Habitats & Species Surveys
Phase 2 habitat and species surveys can be required by the local planning authority if the site area has semi-natural habitats, such as wetlands, woodlands and grasslands; or if the site supports habitat for protected species. The methodology for each type of Phase 2 survey is unique, although most habitat surveys use the National Vegetation Classification.
JFA Environmental Planning can undertake Phase 2 surveys across a range of species and groups and have long-experience of doing so. We ensure that the results accord with accepted methodology and our surveyors are suitably qualified for the species or habitats in question.
Sometimes development requires a licence, issued by Natural England, if it affects certain types of protected species. These include species protected under European legislation via the Habitats Regulations or species afforded special protection under UK legislation.
European Protected Species (EPS) licences are most commonly sought for all bats, common dormice, and great crested newts. There are a range of other EPS, but these are less likely to be found in areas where development is proposed. The licensing process is quite lengthy and requires that the applicant be well-informed on the constraints, timing and cost involved.
JFA Environmental Planning have considerable expertise in the application process, the licensing administration and the mitigation that follows, and can assist clients in this regard. However, the most important advice we provide to our clients is to avoid the requirement for a licence and to be absolutely sure that the data supports the need for a licence in the first place.
JFA Environmental Planning have experienced qualified Landscape Architects who find creative solutions to site development whilst adhering to all building regulations and environmental legislation. JFA Landscape Architects work closely with our ecologists in creating environments which are truly sustainable and at one with the natural environment.
We provide a full range of services in both rural and urban contexts with a strong emphasis on the site context and sensitivity to site conditions. Our services are incorporated at all stages of the development process, from conception to practical completion.
A considerable amount of our work involves habitat creation, arising out of enhancements provided as part of a development project. We have designed and managed the site work for habitats, ranging from semi-natural woodland, grasslands, heathlands and wetlands.
Our Portfolio, accessed from the Home page, shows just a few examples of our work, but we have the expertise and in-house competencies to advise clients effectively in both the design and implementation of habitat creation, including budgeting and time-tables.
habitat management plans
JFA Environmental Planning can deliver habitat management plans for a range of situations. These usually come about as the result of planning obligations, and often tie in with landscape management plans.
Management plans set out the objectives for management and timetables for delivery. They generally include a table of works and timings and can be useful to provide to site maintenance contractors.
Along with these we are able to provide costings for delivery which can be very useful to clients in preparing budgets.
Consultation & Stakeholder Dialogues
Consultation with the local community and stakeholders can be critical in ensuring the development application process goes smoothly. Much of our work includes local liaison, and in addition, we have trained stakeholder dialogue facilitators on staff should formal, structured consultations be necessary.
Strategic Planning & Regional Biodiversity
The planning system is strategic, and proposals to develop on sites are built on a framework of strategic planning, driven primarily at the local authority level. Strategic site or area assessment is different to site assessment, and the approach taken for strategic work applies at a greater scale than site specific surveys. JFA Environmental Planning undertake this regularly, working with consultant town planners to assist in putting together a case for strategic development proposals. Local policy considerations are key in strategic work as well local, regional and national biodiversity action plans.
When the planning application process is unsuccessful, and the client makes a decision to appeal, our services can be useful if ecology impacts are one of the reasons for refusal. Our approach is firstly to negotiate with the local authority or stakeholders to try to resolve the objection and come to an agreement in advance of the public inquiry. This is often successful.
Occasionally positions become entrenched and the appellant has to provide written and/or oral evidence at a planning hearing or formal public inquiry. JFA Environmental Planning are very experienced in doing this, and can assist appellant’s in presenting their case to help result in a favourable outcome.
Local Development Framework Representation
As part of the planning process it is sometimes necessary for clients to make representation to the Local Development Framework (LDF). While less formal than the public inquiry process, it has its own protocols, and a familiarity with the planning system is crucial.
JFA Environmental Planning can provide this for clients, as we have worked for many years in supplying input to the local plan process and understand the way to do this, and how to provide representation that best reflects the client’s requirement.
Mitigation is generally the result of planning conditions, although EPS licenses can require mitigation, as can EIAs. We provide a range of mitigations for all species and habitats. Mitigation reduces the harm to or protects and enhances habitats and species. It follows the process of Phase 1 surveys and any other surveys and is usually undertaken either to enable development or during the development process. The common mitigation requirement is site clearance of reptiles and amphibians prior to development, although habitat and other species mitigation measures are also undertaken.
landscape design & master planning
JFA Environmental Planning work in a range of sectors; such as residential, education, office and commercial and healthcare. Our landscape services include master planning and technical work to support planning applications, construction drawings for the tender and construction stages and management plans for on-going maintenance.
We have considerable experience in the production of landscape master plans and detailed layouts for residential developments. Our design work in healthcare has ranged from master planning and detailed design for a new build private hospital campus, through to planting plans for individual GP Surgeries.
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