“Why does it take so long?”
Delays are perhaps the biggest gripe developers have with ecology work and some are unavoidable but others can be minimised through planning. Here are three types of delay.
- Survey timing – Some animals and plants can only be reliably found at certain times of year, for instance great crested newts can be surveyed in spring when they visit ponds to breed and lay eggs but the rest of the year they spread out over a wide area of land and can easily be missed. A survey done at the wrong time will not be accepted as evidence to support a planning application and could put everyone involved at risk of prosecution if protected species are found later in the construction process. The need to survey at the right time cannot be avoided but it can be planned for by making sure you consult an ecologist about what might need doing as early as possible
- Translocation – If protected animals need to be moved from a site before work can start we need to be sure all, or at least most of them have been found. Hopefully a good survey will let you know how many are likely to be there and how long the work should take, allowing for planning, but nature can be unpredicatable and it is a good idea to allow for plenty of contingency.
- Request for information – Very common but also very easy to avoid. What happens is that a developer submits a planning application without the right supporting environmental information. Both government policy and court precedent make it clear that if a planning authority are unsure how an application will affect a protected site or species they must refuse permission until they have enough information to be sure so an unsupported application will be returned. The way to avoid this is to engage an ecologist early, work out what information is needed and get it right first time.