Wildlife and Planning
Why does my application need to consider wildlife?
The first purpose of Dartmoor National Park is to conserve the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. As a local planning authority Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) is required to ensure that development is appropriate and does not damage the special protected landscape and wildlife around us. Buildings and land even in built up areas have the potential to support important wildlife including nesting birds, bats, reptiles, badger setts and dormice. These species along with many others are protected by law or by planning and National Park policy and must be safeguarded during development.
Many areas of land in the National Park are also legally protected as designated sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation) or by planning and National Park policies (such as County Wildlife Sites or priority habitats).
Species and habitats not protected by law are also important for wildlife and should be protected and enhanced in line with National Park and planning policy.
South Hams Special Area of Conservation (SAC) - Greater horseshoe bats are one of Britain's rarest bats and are confined to South West England and South Wales. A significant proportion of the British population is found in South Devon and the Buckfastleigh maternity roost is thought to be the largest in Europe. The South Hams Special Area of Conservation (SAC) has been designated to ensure the favourable conservation status of this population of Greater horseshoe bats.
Plans that may have a likely significant impact on the SAC must be assessed to ensure there is no adverse effect on the integrity of the designated site. These requirements are known as Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) requirements.
Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), together with other Local Planning Authorities, have produced a guidance document for those preparing and validating planning application in the South Devon area which may impact on the South Hams SAC. It provides advice on which applications may have a likely significant effect on the South Hams SAC. It also provides advice on the information that applicants may need to submit with a planning application in order for DNPA to undertake a HRA.
Will wildlife affect my planning application?
Before you submit your planning application you will need to check whether or not your proposals could affect protected species or designated sites.
If your property has the potential to support protected species or sites you will need to employ an ecological consultant to carry out an assessment and make recommendations to avoid or minimise any potential impacts. The assessment needs to be recorded in a suitable report and submitted with your planning application. Some survey work such as bat emergence and reptile surveys can only be completed at certain times of year and over several months.
Bear in mind that in some cases there may be a delay before your application can be submitted.
A Wildlife Assessment Check, created by the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning, has been designed for householder and smaller-scale developers to help determine the potential risk to protected species or designated sites. The interactive tool asks a few questions about the proposal, including location and type development. This triggers whether certain species and statutory sites are likely to be affected, and indicates whether the developer should seek expert ecological advice before making a planning application.
The results page of the tool lists protected and priority species and designated sites that may be impacted and provides ‘Species Guidance Notes’ with information about when and how ecological surveys should take place, habitat enhancement, mitigation, legislation and monitoring requirements.
This is a toolkit developed nationally and is not a substitute for expert professional local advice.
There is further information about the role of a consultant ecologist provided by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), in particular ‘A householder’s guide to engaging an ecologist’.
In the case of internationally protected species (which includes all species of bats, dormice, and otter) your ecologist may advise that a licence is required from Natural England if there is a risk of disturbance or harm. Your consultant should advise you about this and Natural England also provides guidance.