Ecology

Ecology is the study of all living organisms, their interactions and their habitats. Doncaster Council has a dedicated ecologist who provides advice, guidance and information in order to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the borough.

For further information please contact us using the contacts at the bottom of this page.

The Local Authority ecologist is in place to consider all of the ecological implications of long term development policies and individual applications. The individual applications can be small scale, such as a house extension, or can be major proposals, such as a wind farm or a large limestone quarry. The implications and impacts can vary considerably.

The ecologist protects wildlife and habitats thorough the application of European Union (EU) legislation such as the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the Environmental Directive. National legislation such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act and parts of the Town and Country Planning Act provide means of protecting wildlife and habitats which are nationally important.

National planning policy guidance is provided through Planning Policy Statements (PPS) which cover a range of issues relating to land use planning in all its forms. Guidelines for the planning ecologist are provided through PPS9 Biodiversity and Geological Conservation.

In dealing with planning applications, local guidance is currently provided by relevant sections of the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) which is the major planning policy document for each Local Planning Authority; this will be replaced in due course by the Local Development Framework.

Protected sites

There is a range of designations placed on sites, along with associated legislation, to protect and inform of their wildlife value.

National and European designations (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation) require input from Natural England if they are to be affected by development. It must be remembered that a designated (or statutory) site can be affected by a development even if it is not next to it. Impacts on water, habitat corridors and increased disturbance from traffic, pedestrians, noise and lighting can all have an adverse effect on wildlife even at some distance away. The Local Authority ecologist will maintain regular contact with Natural England to ensure the protection of statutory sites.

Where necessary developers are asked to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment. This process is used to ascertain the magnitude and duration of adverse impacts on wildlife and habitats on statutory sites.

Sites which are important at a local level are known as Local Wildlife Sites, or Sites of Scientific Interest (SSIs) and these feature within the UDP as a local network of sites that protect locally important species and habitats. Through UDP policies these sites are protected so as to ensure that they play a valuable part in conserving wildlife and habitats.

Protected species

Certain species are protected through both European Union (EU) and national legislation and must be taken into account where a development may have an adverse impact upon them.

Planning Policy Statement nine clearly states that the presence of a protected species is a material consideration in the determining of any planning application. In addition, the Habitats Regulations require Local Planning Authorities to have regard to the regulations, which include the protection of certain species when determining planning applications.

Species protected, because they are threatened or rare in a national context, are listed as such under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982.

Species protected, because they are threatened or rare in a European context, are listed under the Habitats Regulations 1994.

In addition, specific legislation such as the Badger Act affords protection to specific species for specific purposes.

A significant amount of the ecologist's work involves ensuring that the Authority is adhering to its requirements to take protected species into account in determining planning applications. If the ecologist considers that a protected species may be present due to there being a suitable habitat or records of such a presence, then they will require a survey for that species prior to the determination of the application.

The following factsheets can be downloaded from the Downloads and Resources section:

  • Protected Species - provides guidance regarding whether protected species surveys are likely to be required to support a planning application
  • European Protected Species - provides additional guidance about the extra information that will be needed to support planning applications that affect European Protected Species such as bats and great crested newts

 Unprotected wildlife value

A site with a development proposal will normally be of benefit to some wildlife even though it may not be protected by national legislation. In these circumstances the policies in the UDP and supplementary local policies are the main means of protection. The relevant policies can protect wildlife and require mitigation, compensation and ecological enhancement where that provides a net gain in ecological value.

When faced with a planning application not involving protected sites, the planning ecologist will consider what habitat features there are and what species may be accommodated. Grassland may contain a wide range of wildflower species or provide nesting sites for birds such as skylark or be suitable for grass snakes. Bare stone or concrete can attract reptiles and small water bodies may be used by breeding great crested newts. Buildings proposed for demolition or mature trees to be removed, may contain bat roosts.

Where there is any likelihood of protected species being present these must be surveyed for prior to determination. Urban situations can also provide ample opportunities for wildlife to thrive where gardens become overgrown, ponds are undisturbed and old buildings and gardens provide refuges.

Where large developments are proposed, the ecologist will look at a range of ways to enhance either surrounding habitats or create new wildlife areas within the development site. A number of UDP policies provide the basis for conditions that would require developers to deliver mitigation, compensation and enhancement for the benefit of wildlife. Such enhancements may require a new pond for newts, bat roosts integrated into new buildings, bird boxes for house martins, swifts and house sparrows, new hedgerows or woodland planting. In considering the opportunities for wildlife enhancement it is important to take into consideration the surrounding habitats and existing or previously recorded species.

A wide range of creative solutions can be implemented to ensure a net gain in biodiversity is achieved. Early consultations or at pre-application stage will ensure the consideration of a wide range of enhancements and wildlife benefits.

Biodiversity

The publication of the Doncaster Biodiversity Action Plan now provides additional focus for the protection and enhancement of species and habitats within the planning system. Priority species and habitats have been identified with the Plan and the ecological protection and enhancement that can be gained from developments can contribute significantly to achieving targets for these.

Advice

The local authority ecologist provides advice to council services to ensure that the Council takes account of wildlife. This advice is generally focused on the planning function but other service areas may seek the ecologists advice occasionally on matters such as housing, parks and gardens, highways or environmental health. The ecologist can also provide information and advice to the public on a wide range of ecological matters.

To request advice, please use the eForm below:

Contact:

Further Information:

Last updated: 28 March 2019 07:30:47