Phase 1 Habitat Surveys: Practical Processes & Application

Environmentally mapping proposed development sites

Landscape architecture revolves around various aspects, because the design of outdoor areas differs a great deal depending on the type of area, the trees and other habitats in that area, and the reason why a certain development or project has been proposed for that area. Carrying out detailed evaluations of the areas in question is of the essence, as several things need to be taken into consideration. The authorities will also require certain reports before approving of a project proposal.

One of the most common requirements is the phase 1 habitat survey. Basically a phase 1 habitat survey calls for the mapping of an area that is being considered for a certain development. Phase 1 habitat surveys are indispensable as a foundation to inform those concerned with the decision making process of the current state of the area, any habitats present there, as well as the stepping stone for further surveys that may be deemed necessary. Phase 1 habitat surveys are often critical to assist in the impact assessment of certain projects or developments. The landscape structure is studied, and above all any vegetation that is present in the area will be noted. Landscape architects make use of certain standardised definitions as well as map colour schemes in order to make sure that everything is standardised and properly classified, so that in case the report needs to be used at a national level for future use or for comparisons, there will not be any problems with lack of clarity or non-procedural aspects. Most clients do not consider the fact that even hedges and ditches could potentially be considered as important habitats. However, a landscape architect will explain all this once the phase 1 habitat survey is completed, and also try to make things a bit simpler for clients who do not understand the jargon and the legal aspects of such issues.

Phase 1 Habitat Survey Mapping. Image credit: Applied Ecology

Phase 1 Habitat Survey Mapping. Image credit: Applied Ecology

For those who have never seen phase 1 habitat surveys and what they look like, suffice it to say that it is basically just like a colourful map of the area. There will also be a number of target notes, so as to provide additional information on certain points of interest or any habitats that are too small to map out. Phase 1 habitat surveys are very useful and sometimes extended phase 1 habitat surveys are considered necessary if more detailed information is required about the site. This is often the case with large developments. An extended phase 1 habitat survey would also include additional information such as botanical species, and, appraisals of areas that could be habitats for legally protected species. However the first step is to carry out a phase 1 habitat survey, which is to an extent a kind of site assessment, to put it simply. Once the types of habitats present are determined by this first survey, there will then be a better idea as to whether it would be better to carry out more extended surveys, which will target specific aspects.

Kent Bat: Image credit: Kent Bat Group

Kent Bat. Image credit: Kent Bat Group

In Kent and in UK in general, there are a number of common protected species that are often found in lowland habitats, such as bats, otters, badgers, water voles, certain reptiles and breeding birds. Protected species are often the second phase of ecological site assessments, and this is technically referred to as a phase 2 survey, where there will be a lot of emphasis placed on the vegetation. However in the case of lowland developments this type of vegetation survey is often not necessary.

Phase 1 habitat surveys are best conducted between April and October, for the simple reason that during this period most deciduous as well as annual species of plants are more identifiable. Phase 1 habitat surveys take a landscape approach. Flora and fauna can be studied in areas that are more rural and it is a fascinating experience considering that often the landscape architect will need to go in deep ditches, dense hedges and other areas which may not be that easily accessible. However this is part of the beauty of carrying out phase 1 habitat surveys. Should you need such a survey, make sure you hire a professional and experienced specialist to take care of this for you, so as to put your mind to rest that it will be handled with utmost care and professionalism.