The ecological assessment for most projects starts with a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) . This is the type of survey that the Local Planning Authority is most likely to ask you to undertake, because it allows the scope of any further ecology surveys and assessments to be determined. Almost all sites, including small brownfield sites, large greenfield sites and single dwellings require a PEA. PEAs can be undertaken at any time of the year.
The PEA requires a site visit to identify and map the habitats on the site using the categories defined by the JNCC for Phase 1 Habitat Surveys. The dominant plant species in each habitat will also be recorded. Once the habitats have been identified, a scoping exercise is normally undertaken to assess the potential of these habitats to support rare, notable or protected plants and animals and this information is used to determine the scope of any further ecology surveys.
Depending on the time of year, the habitat survey may be combined with other field surveys, such as a badger survey, a great crested newt Habitat Suitability Index or a bat roost assessment of buildings, structures and trees. This can save time and money by reducing the need for further site visits.
PEAs normally require a desk study to collate records of plants and animals which are held by the local Biological Records Centre, and a search of online databases for information about nature conservation sites in the vicinity of the proposed scheme. This information supplements the data collected during the field survey.
The results of the field survey and desk study are used to undertake an assessment to determine the potential impacts of the proposed scheme on ecology. For some projects, this may be the only assessment that is required; however, most projects will require further field surveys for protected species, and a full assessment of the impacts of the scheme will only be possible after these surveys have been completed.