Ecological surveys and reports

You will need to provide an ecological survey report if you are submitting a planning proposal that could impact biodiversity or any protected sites, habitats or species. You can check if your development proposal affects ecology or biodiversity using our checklist found within the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document (June 2021)

During the planning process, our ecologists will: 

  • examine the need for ecological surveys and reports 

  • examine the quality of the surveys and reports 

  • make recommendations to the planning officer relating to ecological issues 

It is important that ecological surveys are carried out: 

  • by a qualified professional ecologist 

  • at a specific, appropriate time of year with enough time to ensure the appropriate level of survey has been carried out before applying for planning permission 

  • in compliance with methodologies set out within relevant industry guidelines  

Who should carry out surveys and reports

A competent, professional consultant ecologist should carry out the required ecology survey work and reporting. They should have appropriate experience and hold relevant species licences for the type of habitat and species expected to be present. 

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) provides a list of registered practices and consultant ecologist members. You can search the CIEEM registered practice directory online. 

The ecologist should be appointed at the earliest opportunity as the ecology on site; or nearby, may influence the design of the project. You will need to make sure that your consultant ecologist knows that the survey and subsequent report is to inform a planning application and that an assessment of the impacts of the proposed development is required. Your consultant ecologist should be able to advise on the scope of surveys and reporting required. However, for added certainty, Milton Keynes City Council do provide a pre-application service whereby our ecologists would be pleased to provide additional advice on likely ecological requirements.   

Types of ecological surveys and reports 

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) 

Initially, your instructed ecologist will need to carry out a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) which identifies any likely ecological constraints, such as whether important species or protected sites, habitats or species are likely to be present. 

The PEA will also give appropriate recommendations for next steps which may include the need for further detailed survey work or mitigation measures which will need to be implemented at the site during the construction / operational phases should planning permission be granted. The time of year when further surveys can be carried out is often restricted to when particular species are most active or visible, therefore it is vital the requirement for further surveys is established as soon as possible to avoid costly delays to your application.  

Any additional surveys need to be carried out and reported on before the planning application is determined. The results of further surveys are important to inform mitigation strategies, licencing requirements and the development proposals design. 

The PEA will also need to include up-to-date environmental records data provided by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre (BMERC)

More information about what to include in a PEA report can be found within the CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

Please note that a PEA report is usually for your information only, it is not suitable for submission to inform a planning application. A PEA will only be accepted to appropriate evidence to inform a planning application if all of the following criteria are met: 

  • It can be demonstrated that the proposals would have no significant ecological effects

  • No mitigation is required

  • No further surveys are necessary.  

Otherwise, a PEA should be superseded by an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA). For further information, please refer to the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document.  

Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) 

Developments are typically informed by an Ecological Impact Assessment. The assessment is more detailed than that of a PEA and incorporates the findings of further surveys and provides mitigation solutions. The assessment allows for the impacts on ecological features to be determined and for an evaluation of the effect of the proposals upon important ecological features. 

The EcIA should provide enough detail and clarity to ensure planning decisions are based on robust adequate information. 

More information about what needs to be included within an EcIA can be found within the CIEEM Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment and the EcIA Checklist

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Report 

You will usually have to submit a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) report to demonstrate how the project has achieved BNG, however there are some exceptions where this information is not required. 

The report will detail how the project has followed the 10 principles of BNG (Biodiversity Net Gain: Good Practice Principles for Development, CIEEM) and include a BNG calculation using the latest Defra biodiversity metric. 

For small sites of 9 or less dwellings and under 1ha, or under 0.5ha if dwelling number is unknown provided there is no priority habitat within the planning application’s red line boundary, Defra have produced a small sites metric. 

We recommend that you begin to consider BNG at the start of your project so that you can plan for the associated surveys and build BNG into project design from an early stage. BNG requires habitat surveys using the UK Hab classification system as well as habitat condition assessments undertaken within the peak botanical survey period (April to September inclusive). If rivers or hedgerows are present, then these will also require survey and condition assessments following specific methodology set out by Defra. 

More information about what to include in a BNG report can be found within the CIEEM Biodiversity Net Gain Report and Audit Templates guidance. 

See MKCC SPD for further details

Ecology planning consultations

Ecology planning consultations contact information