Biodiversity and Geological Conservation Assessment

Local requirements for the conservation of protected species.

A Biodiversity Survey and Assessment is an overarching document that must include all the necessary surveys and assessments relevant to the application site, the proposed development and its potential impacts.

A Biodiversity Survey and Assessment is required where:

  • The 'yes' box is ticked under any of the three biodiversity and geological conservation questions on the planning application form
  • A proposal involves the conversion or re-use of an unoccupied or empty building - please note this includes the conversion of barns.
  • Where development involves alterations to a roof of a building within a designated bat zone.

To assist in understanding when a Biodiversity Survey and Assessment is required, with specific regard to protected species, Applicants are requested to complete a Icon for pdf Biodiversity Checklist [341.69KB] which should then be included within your application.  If you answer 'yes' to any question you must include the required ecology report unless otherwise agreed.

This should include evidence to support Habitats Regulations Assessment where appropriate.

The Local Planning Authority has a duty placed on it by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (the NERC Act) to consider the conservation of biodiversity when determining a planning application; this includes having regard to the safeguard of species protected under relevant legislation including the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and the conservation of priority species and habitats under S41 of the NERC Act.

Where a proposed development is likely to affect any of the above or if a development is likely to have an impact on an internationally or nationally designated area (Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Ramsar sites), the application must be accompanied by the relevant protected species, ecological and/or geological surveys and assessments.

Somerset Environmental Records Centre

Protected Species Survey and Assessment

A Protected Species Survey must:

  • Record which species are present and identify their numbers (may be approximate);
  • Map their distribution and use of the area, site, structure or feature (e.g. for feeding, shelter, breeding).

The Protected Species Assessment must identify and describe potential development impacts likely to harm the protected species and/or their habitats identified by the survey (these should include both direct and indirect effects both during construction and afterwards).  Where harm is likely, evidence must be submitted to show:

  • How alternatives designs or locations have been considered;
  • How adverse effects will be avoided wherever possible;
  • How unavoidable impacts will be mitigated or reduced;
  • How impacts that cannot be avoided or mitigated will be compensated.

In addition, proposals are to be encouraged that will enhance, restore or add to features or habitats used by protected species. The Assessment should also give an indication of how species numbers are likely to change, if at all, after development e.g. whether there will be a net loss or gain. 

Para 170 of the NPPF requires that development provides a net gain for biodiversity. Applicants, where appropriate e.g. where there is land take, will be expected to demonstrate that a proposed development achieves a net gain using the Somerset Habitat Evaluation Procedure or Defra's Biodiversity Offsetting metric according to criteria found here.

The information provided in response to the above requirements are consistent with those required for an application to Natural England for a European Protected Species Licence.  A protected species survey and assessment may form part of a wider Ecological Assessment and/or part of an Environmental Impact Assessment under The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.

With regard to bat species cited for SACs outside the designated site but in Functionally Linked Land you can check if your site is in an SAC Bat Consultation Zone by looking at our online maps.

Further information on Mendip SAC's can be found here: Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) for bats - Technical Guidance

Icon for pdf Technical Guidance Mendip District SAC Bats v2.1 [3.21MB]

Requirements for Designated Sites, Priority Habitats and Species and Geological Conservation:

Where a proposed development is likely to affect a site, habitat, species or geological feature, the applicant must submit an Ecological/Geological Survey and Assessment.

Specifically these will usually be required for application proposals that are:

  • Located within or adjacent to a Special Protection Area (SPA); Special Area of Conservation (SAC); Ramsar Site; Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); Local Geological Site (LGS), Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS); or Local Nature Reserve (LNR);
  • Likely to affect UK BAP or S41 NERC Act habitats or species

For detailed guidance on determining when an ecological or geological survey and assessment is required please refer to:

Icon for pdf Table 2: Local Requirements for Designated Sites and Priority Habitats Criteria for When a Survey and Assessment are Required  [25.16KB]

Icon for pdf Table 3: Local Requirements For Designated Geological Sites And Features Criteria for when a Survey and Assessment are Required [24.37KB]

Ecological/Geological Survey and Assessment

An Ecological/Geological Survey must:

  • Record which habitats, species and features are present on and where appropriate near to/around the site;
  • Identify the extent/area/length present;
  • Map their distribution on site and/or in the surrounding area shown on an appropriate scale plan.

The Ecological/Geological Assessment should identify and describe potential development impacts likely to harm designated sites, priority habitats or species, other listed biodiversity features or geological features (these should include both direct and indirect effects both during construction and afterwards).  Where harm is likely, evidence must be submitted to show:

  • How alternatives designs or locations have been considered;
  • How adverse effects will be avoided wherever possible;
  • How unavoidable impacts will be mitigated or reduced;
  • How impacts that cannot be avoided or mitigated will be compensated.

In addition, proposals are to be encouraged that will enhance, restore or add to designated sites priority habitats, other biodiversity features or geological features.  The Assessment should give an indication of likely change in the area (hectares) of priority habitat on the site after development e.g. whether there will be a net loss or gain.  An ecological/geological survey and assessment may form part of a wider Environmental Impact Assessment.

Further Advice

Where internationally or nationally designated sites are potentially affected it is advisable for applicants to seek advice on the scope of the assessment from the Council's Ecologist prior to the submission of the application in these circumstances.

Further information on Somerset Ecology Service, including how to contact the Council's Ecologist, can be found on the Somerset Ecology Services' website.

Further information and the Government's standing advice can be found here

Guidance on protected species how to review planning applications

All surveys, assessments and reports should be undertaken and prepared by a suitably qualified professional ecologist in accordance with the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management's 'Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment'

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

The district of Mendip contains, or is within the consultation zone, of three SAC's namely the North Somerset and Mendip SAC, the Mells Valley SAC and the Bath and Bradford on Avon SAC.