Development and wildlife

Development and wildlife

Marbled white on thistle by Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Development can have a positive impact for wildlife, when planned and delivered well.

We speak up for wildlife in our three counties by providing advice to developers and local authorities. Find out more about BBOWT's work, and how you can help ensure developments are planned in a way that considers local wildlife.

What BBOWT does

We give wildlife a voice in development by:

  • providing advice to and/or consulting with local authorities, developers and their consultants, other NGOs and statutory agencies
  • providing advice to members of the public.

What developers can do

Developers need to identify the potential impact of their proposed development on local wildlife and make sure that measures are taken to avoid (through locating development where there will be less harmful impacts), mitigate and, as a last resort, compensate for any adverse effects. This is known as the ‘Mitigation Hierarchy’. The National Planning Policy Framework recommends biodiversity net gain so developers should consider the opportunities to achieve this in their local area.

If you believe a development is due to happen or is happening and any of the steps in our checklist (see below) have not been taken, note this in your planning response.


Getting a survey done

Where there is a reasonable risk of harm to wildlife, developers should commission an ecological survey of the site and its buildings, to identify likely impacts and inform mitigation.

The results from surveys should feed into the design planning of developments.

It is essential that suitable ecological surveys are undertaken where there is a chance that a development may impact upon wildlife, including protected and priority habitats and species.  Where there is a reasonable likelihood of harm but the required surveys have not been done, then planning applications should be refused.

Incorporating measures for wildlife

Negative ecological impacts can be avoided and mitigated through choosing a considerate location and layout, modifying the design of the development, and using landscaping positively to protect and enhance what wildlife and habitat is already there.

A net gain for biodiversity can be delivered through creating wildlife-friendly landscaping, incorporating spaces for wildlife in buildings and within the development, and looking to improve ecological connectivity, for instance.

Developments can impact on wildlife and ecological networks in various ways, both during construction and operation of the development. Impacts may be temporary or permanent



  • Have appropriate ecological surveys and assessments been done to understand the habitats and species present, and the direct and indirect impacts of development?
  • Are there other options in terms of siting, scale and location of development to reduce impacts?
  • How will the adverse impacts of development be mitigated?

Planning and masterplanning

  • Can existing biodiverse habitats and features be incorporated into the site design?
  • How will a measurable net gain in biodiversity be achieved?
  • Consider the creation of new habitats; can these link or buffer existing habitats off-site?
  • Will the scheme provide people with access to nature - at home, work or school?
  • Have the impacts of people on biodiverse sites and features been considered and how will these be managed?
  • Is there enough publicly accessible greenspace?
  • Is new green infrastructure linked to the rights of way network?

Design of buildings, roads and sites

  • Do the detailed designs include specifications for integrated biodiversity features and areas?
  • Are these designed to be multi-functional? e.g. Landscaped business parks with nature areas, wildlife-friendly mixed-use parks, sustainable urban drainage.
  • Have the impacts of noise and lighting been considered?

Long-term management

  • Has a long-term management plan been prepared to set out how sites will be managed?
  • Have capital and annual management costs been estimated?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the sites and how will this be funded?

Further information about how to incorporate measures for wildlife

Issues to consider in new developments

Loss or damage of important wildlife habitat
Important wildlife habitats include statutory nature conservation sites, Local Wildlife Sites, Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitats, or habitat that is important in providing an ecological link.

The NPPF says that development must minimise impacts on and provide net gains to biodiversity in totality - not just priority habitats and species. Therefore BBOWT request local planning authorities to ensure that all development, when requested, undertake a biodiversity impact assessment by utilising a Biodiversity Impact Assessment Calculator (based on the DEFRA biodiversity assessment metric). This mechanism ensures an objective, measurable, transparent and repeatable assessment is provided to enable the LPA to properly determine if net gain to biodiversity has been achieved. This assessment primarily applies to non-priority habitats.

Indirect impacts on important habitats
Through pollution, air quality changes, artificial lighting, noise disturbance, increased recreational pressure, etc.

Potential risks to protected or priority species or other conservation priority species e.g. red listed birds
For instance through:
•    loss or damage of breeding sites or resting places;
•    loss or damage of foraging habitat;
•    loss of habitat connectivity;
•    injury or killing of individual animals during construction, etc.

Statutory nature conservation sites include:
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar sites (wetland sites of international significance).

Priority habitats means:
NERC Act Section 41 habitats of principle conservation importance and national and local Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats.

Protected species include:
European Protected Species (including bats, otters, dormice, great crested newts) and species protected by domestic legislation (including reptiles, water voles, badgers, all nesting birds).  Further information is available from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, which advises government.

Priority species means:
NERC Act Section 41 species of principle conservation importance and national and local Biodiversity Action Plan priority species.

Advice on protected species
Natural England has issued advice on protected species, which local planning authorities should consider when making planning decisions.  This advice helps case officers to decide whether there is a reasonable likelihood of protected species being present, and provides advice on survey and mitigation requirements.  The standing advice is a useful resource for case officers, for planning applicants when considering a development and also for local people concerned about developments in their area that may affect wildlife.