A new British Standard has been published in order to address how biodiversity, protected species and habitats are considered in relation to planning applications.
This code of practice BS42020:2013 aims to structure the ecological assessment methods employed in England and Wales to support planning applications. It has been produced by BSI in consultation with biodiversity experts and stakeholders across all sectors.
The ultimate goal is to achieve a consistent level of quality and appropriateness with regard to the ecological information that accompanies the applications and also maintains a level of transparency, ensuring that nothing gets lost in translation.
The argument is that previously there have been no set regulations and the quality of information varies across the board. High-quality ecological information is important to ensure effective decision making that is in compliance with current statutory obligations and policy requirements. This ensures that the desired outcomes are achieved and, the recommended practical conservation and enhancement measures are successfully implemented during development.
Although it talks about ecological information, the standard is applicable across many professions including, ecology, land use planning, land management, architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, forestry, arboriculture, surveying, building and construction.
In the main, the standard talks about maintaining high standards of the current professional practices to ensure that there is confidence in biodiversity proposals, but a new idea has emerged. It is now being deemed necessary to calculate the net loss or gain of habitats should the development in question go ahead. While for conservation groups this signifies another layer of protection for the countryside, it provides another hurdle for developers in schemes that are likely to impact on priority habitats.