Householders contemplating home improvement projects this coming year should be considering the impact upon the surrounding natural habitat.
While development companies tend to be well aware of the rules and regulations governing where and when building can be undertaken and the permissions needed when it comes to flora and fauna on-site, ordinary householders are less aware.
“Not only are householders less aware of what’s required,” says David Sparrow of Carter Jonas.
“But they can be unaware of the legal protection given to habitats – even a domestic garden is considered as such a habitat - and creatures and the criminal prosecution that can result from transgressions.”
There is a long list of animals, insects, flowers and plants which are protected by the Wildlife Protection Act or have European Protected Species Status.
When there is even the potential for harm or a loss of habitat, a special licence will be required before any work can begin.
Such licences are usually granted by Natural England, provided that there are good grounds for disturbance and that appropriate provision is made for new habitat.
While the sequence of events leading up to an application to Natural England typically starts at the planning application stage, some planning authorities are, increasingly, asking for wildlife surveys to be submitted with the planning application.
There is a cost implication to this because timing is crucial and so failure to plan any building work around consideration of the impact on flora and fauna might add to costs through an enforced delay in the project.
David Sparrow advises: “In many cases, surveys have to be carried out around a particular species’ breeding period, which might just be across one or two months of the year.
“The answer to this is, like the professional developers do, to consider the affect that something even as small as an extension might have upon the surrounding environment at the outset, with expert advice.
“This approach allows sufficient time and resources to become part of the project’s build programme and guards against enforced delays. It will be money well spent in bringing much needed development forward."