The British Standard for Biodiversity, BS42020:2013 Biodiversity – Code of practice for planning and development, defines an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) as the ‘process of identifying, quantifying and evaluating the potential impacts of defined actions on ecosystems or their components, and usually performed as one element of environmental impact assessment (EIA)’.
Practically speaking, an EcIA is formal part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which is a statutory requirement for major developments, such as motorways, major infrastructure projects and large housing schemes.
The process starts with gaining a detailed understanding of the ecology of a site through survey work. This would start with a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), which comprises a desk study and an extended Phase 1 habitat survey. This would identify any further detailed ecology surveys required for protected species or habitats. This information would then be used at an early stage of the development process to inform design.
The baseline information gathered during the above process allows us to evaluate the nature conservation value of the site. This evaluation is based on published guidelines and results in each ecological component of the site being graded on a scale of negligible to international importance.
The impact the development will have on each ecological component is then interpreted to determine its magnitude, and a programme of avoidance and protection or mitigation and compensation is employed with the aim of avoiding or reducing any adverse ecological impact. All of this is then presented as an Environmental Statement chapter of the EIA as part of the planning application.
At ADAS our ecology consultants have a pragmatic approach to the whole process and always aim to give our clients an early warning of any potential issues to ensure sufficient consideration is given to them, avoiding last minute problems as the submission date nears. We also have a dedicated EIA team, and can provide specialist planning input and coordinate the entire EIA process if required.