Ecology advice

Page updated on: 31/08/2023

We recognise the important contribution that planning can make to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity within the County, including habitats and species of international, national and local importance and that biodiversity conservation and enhancement has an integral role in sustainable development and is fundamental to the social and economic wellbeing of Carmarthenshire’s residents. 

The development of our urban and rural areas can have significant impacts resulting in a decline of biodiversity. It is also recognised that development can have a positive impact where management, restoration and enhancement features for habitat and species are incorporated.

The planning ecology service seeks to ensure that the provisions of legislation and national policy and that of the Local Development Plan are delivered at a local level and that planning applications are accompanied by the correct information that follows best practice guidelines. The need for biodiversity information is not confined to planning applications. It can apply to applications for Listed Building consent, Tree Preservation Order consent, Conservation Area Consent and Demolition Notifications for example.

The information on our website will assist applicants and developers in identifying the potential for projects and proposals to impact on biodiversity. It will also inform planning officers and ecologists of the level of information required to adequately assess the effects of a development proposal on biodiversity interests.

Ecological Advice for all those submitting planning applications: Bats and Nesting birds

Why your planning application may require bat and nesting bird surveys

Ecological Advice for all those submitting planning applications: Biodiversity Enhancements

Biodiversity enhancements are the features of a project or a planning application which will secure benefits for biodiversity (species and or habitats) as result of the proposed project being delivered.

For example, an enhancement might be the planting of a small area of woodland as part of a development of 3 or 4 houses, or it might be the eradication of Japanese Knotweed and the replacement of it with native shrubs such as hazel and blackthorn. It may be the provision of improved habitat for reptiles, or habitat improvements to a water course and adjacent areas for wildlife.

Legislation and planning policy that apply in Wales now require that development should not result in any loss of habitats or species, and that it must provide net benefit for biodiversity. The Chief Planning Officer in the Welsh Government has stated that:
….”where biodiversity enhancement is not proposed as part of an application, significant weight will be given to its absence, and unless other significant material considerations indicate otherwise it will be necessary to refuse permission.”

A qualified ecologist is the person to guide you if you are unsure of what to do, but you may have your own ideas. An ecologist will look at your proposals, they will advise how best to minimise any the impact of the development you propose on biodiversity, and what would be suitable in terms of enhancements.

Relatively small applications e.g., extensions and single dwelling developments:

The easiest way to do this is to annotate one of the drawings you are submitting with your planning application, e.g., a lay out plan can show area of tree and shrub planting, or you could annotate a plan of an elevation to show how you are designing the eaves of a new building to accommodate nesting birds such as swallows, or where you are providing bat boxes.

Always set out in words a few more details, e.g., how many bat boxes, what sort of trees and shrubs, how many of each species and what size of plants you are using, and the average distance between the trees. Sometimes you may need to include a method statement with your plans that will explain how you are going to do something and when you are going to do it, e.g., how you will translocate a hedge, or clear habitat to enable reptiles to vacate it when they are mobile in the late summer months.

Larger more complex applications:

These schemes are likely to require professional ecological advice regarding the impact of the development on habitat and species. A Biodiversity Enhancement Scheme that can be largely map based is useful way of setting out the impact of the development and your proposals for addressing this. You will need to address the impact on what are recognised as Priority Habitats and Species as per the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and how you will be delivering, what is termed in Welsh Government policy, “Biodiversity Net Benefit”. Ecologists will be familiar with this concept.

Make sure that any biodiversity enhancements that you propose are integrated with any other landscaping or drainage proposals.

The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and Planning Policy Wales - Edition 11 (PPW11) requires the Local Planning Authority to seek to enhance biodiversity through the planning process, the need for identification of biodiversity enhancements has been clarified in the letter from Welsh Government to Wales LPA Heads of Planning dated 23rd October 2019 which states:

Planning Policy Wales (PPW 11) sets out that “planning authorities must seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity in the exercise of their functions. This means that development should not cause any significant loss of habitats or populations of species, locally or nationally and must provide a net benefit for biodiversity” (para 6.4.5 refers). This policy and subsequent policies in Chapter 6 of PPW 11 respond to the Section 6 Duty of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
…..‘where biodiversity enhancement is not proposed as part of an application, significant weight will be given to its absence, and unless other significant material considerations indicate otherwise it will be necessary to refuse permission.

It is important that biodiversity and ecosystem resilience considerations are taken into account at an early stage in development plan preparation and when proposing or considering development proposals. Planning authorities should be proactive and embed appropriate policies into local development plans to protect against biodiversity loss and secure enhancement.

The attributes of ecosystem resilience (PPW 11 para 6.4.9 p.138 refers to this) should be used to assess the current resilience of a site, and this must be maintained and enhanced post development. If this cannot be achieved, permission for the development should be refused.

Securing a net benefit for biodiversity within the context of PPW requires a pragmatic response to the specific circumstances of the site. Working through the step wise approach (PPW 11 para 6.4.21 refers), if biodiversity loss cannot be completely avoided (i.e., maintained), and has been minimised, it is useful to think of net benefit as a concept to both compensate for loss and look for and secure enhancement opportunities. A net benefit for biodiversity can be secured through habitat creation and/or long-term management arrangements to enhance existing habitats, to improve biodiversity and the resilience of ecosystems. Securing a net benefit for biodiversity is not necessarily onerous; through understanding local context, it is possible to identify new opportunities to enhance biodiversity.