Ecological Survey Reports for Planning Applications

The TVERC database contains over 2 million species records, along with site boundaries and descriptions for designated sites plus S41 Habitats and Phase 1 habitat accurately mapped to field-level. No other organisation can provide you with this information.

Environmental consultants should be aware that we have advised all the planning authorities in Berkshire and Oxfordshire that ecology reports submitted as part of a planning application should include a data search from TVERC (with the exception of planning applications where it has been agreed with the planning authority that no data search is required because there will be no impacts on biodiversity).

This approach is supported by CIEEM, the National Biodiversity Network (NBN), the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) and the Association of Local Environmental Records Centres (ALERC). More detailed guidance is available in the CIEEM 'Guidelines for Accessing and Using Biodiversity Data'.

Checklist

The authors of ecological survey reports for planning applications should be able to answer ‘Yes’ to all of the following questions before the application can be validated by the planning authority:

- Do you have access to all the records at the highest available resolution?

- Do you have written permission from all the data providers to use their data in this way?

- Did you contact TVERC to ensure that you have access to records which are not on the NBN Atlas?

Avoid delays to the planning process

Submitting a desk study with data from TVERC will avoid unnecessary and costly delays to processing the planning application due to the planning authority not validating the application or requesting further information before the application can be processed.

Comply with the NPPF

Para 165 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that ‘planning policies and decisions should be based on up-to-date information about the natural environment and other characteristics of the area’. The NBN Gateway does not hold information on Local Wildlife Sites in this area and there are restrictions on public access to the majority of species records available via the NBN, so ecology reports without a data search from TVERC are at risk of non-compliance with the NPPF.

NBN Atlas Data

Every record that is held on the NBN Atlas is licensed with one of three Creative Commons Licences or an Open Government Licence (OGL). Records with a CC-BY-NC licence CANNOT be used for commercial purposes e.g. to support a planning application. Records with other licences CAN be used, but the data is usually uploaded onto the Atlas at a low resolution so is NOT appropriate for use in determining the potential impacts of development on biodiversity.

Follow CIEEM Technical Guidance

If you are a member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) you should be following their professional conduct, professional guidance and technical guidance documents. The 'Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal' state that an ecological report should include "a desk study to identity notable or protected sites habitats or species potentially affected by the proposal under consideration". CIEEM has produced guidelines on how to write an ecological report. "A well-written report is succinct, fit for purpose, tailored to the requirements of the reader and answers the brief agreed with the client. It should avoid any misunderstanding, and minimise the risk of unintended financial or legal consequences."

The CIEEM 'Guidelines for Accessing and Using Biodiversity Data' state "Biodiversity data should be used by those who need to take into account the effect and impact of their actions on biodiversity. Common examples of this are building developments (of many different types), land management and biodiversity assessments and audits."

Meet CIEEM Code of Professional Conduct

This states that that members of CIEEM will:

"ensure I exercise sound professional judgement when I provide information and advice, applying objectivity, relevance, accuracy, fairness and impartiality in the provision of such information and advice, whilst complying with all laws and regulations"

Meet British Standard 42020 Biodiversity Code of Practice for Planning and Development

6.4.2 states that ‘local record centres … should be approached initially for species and habitat information to inform desk studies. The data generated through desk studies should be properly analysed and interpreted, with the results used to inform fieldwork and further assessments of the development proposal.’