Don’t Step on the Crested Newt, It Has Friends in High Places


It has been widely reported that the UK is in the midst of a housing crisis and that the government is keen on seeing more homes being built in the country. Such directive presents great opportunities for local authorities and the construction industry, as well as challenges which are no less great.

With increasing threats to the flora and fauna of the UK, be it the decline of honey bees and pollinating insects or endangered bats species, as well as the management of mature trees and green spaces in urban areas, the need to protect the environment and habitats from human activity, including property development, has been an increasing concern among local authorities, even more so since the publication of the ODPM Circular 06/05. This government planning policy places greater emphasis on the responsibility of planning departments to consider applications in respect of the care they show for biodiversity and the conservation of habitats and protected species.

But the devil is in the details, and even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult for construction professionals to submit an application that meets the requirements of such circular. They are not, after all, experts on the subject and can’t know how to best approach it. In addition, local authorities might not recognise them as an authoritative source and simply dismiss their documents.


This is when specialist surveyors can help by collecting data about the area where a building project is being considered, and by summarising it into a report that will meet local governments’ expectations, and inspire confidence, giving applications greater chances of success. Habitat surveyors can likewise assist local authorities by identifying the suitability of areas earmarked for future development, or corroborate reports submitted to them by developers.

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Habitat surveys can focus on the study of a single animal species or be a thorough investigation of an area, taking into account all animal population and vegetation, supported by local data provided by trusted organisations like The Wildlife Trust or the RSPB for example.

Such surveys can be completed within a week and their cost is minimal considering how it will benefit a planning application. Commissioning habitat surveys from a recognised, respected company will also testify to your commitment to protecting biodiversity and the environment and will certainly not fail to be noticed by local authorities.

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.