Wildlife needs more protection
CHANGES need to be carried out to the way wildlife surveys are carried out to protect animals, according to a new report.The report, from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, criticises local authorities for not insisting on seeing the results of wildlife surveys before they grant planning permission.
CHANGES need to be carried out to the way wildlife surveys are carried out to protect animals, according to a new report.
The report, from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, criticises local authorities for not insisting on seeing the results of wildlife surveys before they grant planning permission.
The trust says there is evidence that some developers are starting work on sites without fulfilling planning conditions to undertake surveys and mitigate impact on wildlife.
"In the worst case scenario, developments could be damaging to protected species and may be breaking the law," said Dr Simone Bullion, the author of the new report, called Planning for Diversity - a Suffolk Perspective.
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Currently ecological surveys are carried out as a condition of planning consent but the report suggests that they should be carried out in advance of planning permission.
Dr Bullion said: "There may be some situations where the importance of the species or the habitats concerned may be significant enough to warrant the refusal of the planning application altogether."
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The report suggests that the current system makes it more difficult to begin damage limitation plans and that in some instances work may even begin before a survey has taken place.
Dr Bullion added: "In the worst case scenario, developments could be damaging to protected species and may be breaking the law."
The greatest example of this is in barn conversions - many are inhabited by protected species of bats and developments can be in breach of wildlife legislation.
The report also recommends that ecological surveys should be carried out where any natural or semi-natural habitats may be affected and that local authorities should refer to a biodiversity checklist to avoid inconsistencies in the planning process.
David Ellis, head of environment and planning for Mid Suffolk District Council, said: "Planning officers always give due care and consideration to wildlife issues when these are material to planning applications and I hope the Suffolk Wildlife Trust will continue to comment on our planning applications and wildlife issues in the review of our Local Plan."
Viv Hotten, spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District council, said the authority took wildlife issues very seriously and there was a check list against which each new planning application was assessed.
"Like all councils we have an eight week target set by the Government in which to determine a planning application, which is one reason why we make wildlife surveys a conditional part of a planning permission," he added.