Developers concerned that building plans could be further delayed beyond the Coronavirus crisis as a result of postponed essential ecology surveys have had their minds put at ease by ecologists at Harris Lamb.

Before commercial and residential developments are given the green light by planners, applicants need to take necessary measures to ensure that the presence of protected species is determined, and where they are present, demonstrate that the necessary steps can be taken to accommodate them or relocate them.

The survey windows for surveys into such species, which include great created newts and bats, are limited to key times of the year, and developers had expressed fears that if surveys could not go ahead in the coming weeks, the impact of the Covid-19 infection could continue into 2021 by causing unavoidable delays in securing planning.

Holly Smith, Director of Harris Lamb’s Environment Department, said that the team was complying with all guidance issued by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, but that the latest update, issued today, assured that ecology field work could still be undertaken provided the appropriate social distancing restrictions were applied.

“According to the CIEEM, site-based ecological work can still be undertaken but should only be done so where necessary and where there is no clear risk to either the ecologists, other workers or the wider public. Under the new measures, travelling to and from work is still allowed, but only where this work absolutely cannot be done from home, which is obviously the case with such surveys. However, it has been stipulated that when we do take on such work, we ensure that we minimise time spent outside of the home and that there are at least two metres between any one of our team and any other person,” said Holly.

“This announcement is helpful to support our ecologists in undertaking site-based ecology surveys and provides reassurance to all sectors concerned about the impact of delaying them. Our ecology team will be carrying out site specific dynamic risk assessments to facilitate completing surveys in the required season, including the newt survey season which starts shortly, where considered appropriate to do so,” she added.

Harris Lamb will continue to follow Government and CIEEM guidance as it evolves.

The CIEEM’s full announcement can be viewed here.