What is a Phase 1 Habitat Survey?

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A Habitat Survey is required to be carried out on behalf of the local planning authority on any land that is being looked at by developers. It should include a Phase 1 habitat survey that provides the basis of information before a planning application can be confirmed and processed, whilst also laying the groundwork for further ecological surveys should they also be required.

Indigo Surveys Ltd provides a service that consults in Arboriculture and Ecology throughout the UK. We provide measured surveys of land and buildings that can provide information to be used for both commercial and domestic sites in a range of locations. One of the areas that we have a specialist focus in is a habitat survey. We can offer professional advice from our leading ecological surveyors, so you have all the facts needed about a location and any scenario with regards to the environment and features of the habitat in question.


So, what does a habitat survey involve?

It is the study of, identification and mapping of the important wildlife habitats that are found on a site and its surrounding areas. Taking on board the information from a Phase 1 ecological survey is an accurate and efficient way to assess the ecological importance of a site, and to look in more detail at the significant habitat features. As a baseline method, it is a fantastic tool, providing information on the property, the plot of land and the established boundary area. From here you can look into the relevant necessity for further surveys to be undertaken.

A Phase 1 Habitat Survey, sometimes also referred to as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, is a survey that takes on board all the flora and fauna of a site, providing a snapshot of the landscape and surrounding area. An experienced ecologist carries out a Phase 1 survey in order to record all wildlife, inhabitants and any water features that are present on the site. All boundaries are recorded as part of the survey too. This initial phase of survey is the industry standard for all UK ecologists and has been developed in accordance with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to provide strict guidelines for the classification and mapping of British habitats.


When is a Phase 1 survey undertaken?

We offer a range of specialist phase one survey options, including phase one ecology survey and phase one habitat survey choices that can be personalised to fit the exact needs of your site. In terms of when a phase one survey takes place, it can vary depending on exactly what you require, but we can guide you through your ideal schedule.

In general, with any development that requires planning permission, no matter the size or scope of the area in question, a Phase 1 ecological survey will be undertaken. It is usually the first survey to be carried out on a site and due to the weather, it is ideally conducted between spring and autumn in order to best identify vegetation, plant life and protected species.

That said, it can sometimes be advantageous to carry out a survey between November and early March, as this can mean that any required protected species surveys can be conducted soon after. While trees, shrubs and plants may be less easily identifiable in these months than they would have been in spring/summer, a winter/early spring survey can mean that a project will not miss any vital additional survey windows and therefore not hold up the progress of any project.


What can you expect to see in the results of a Phase 1 habitat survey?

As mentioned, the JNCC has put together guidelines that define a standardised approach to surveying the landscape of an area, using simple colours, symbols and target notes to plot the boundaries, features and habitats present. This can then be used as a detailed way of evaluating the current state of the site and whether there are interesting and important features to be preserved, or protected species present on the site.

The Phase 1 Habitat Survey map is used to highlight and illustrate the important site observations, such as any rare plants present on the site, rare animal species, ancient hedgerows or other types of special features within the habitat. Once these are detailed, it will give you useful insight into how to best interact with your site.

Phase 1 habitat surveys - branded image

What is the process of a Phase 1 ecological survey?

The first steps of a habitat survey are to undertake a visit to the site in question by an ecological specialist. The site survey will be carried out to conduct an ecological assessment of the site’s habitats as mentioned above. The second step is to take all of that information and put it together in the mentioned Phase 1 habitat survey map, highlighting the different habitat types and ecological values.

From both of these processes, we will produce an ecological assessment report that is designed to JNCC standards of habitat survey classification. It is at this stage that there is a recommendation for further work to be carried out in the form of an extended Phase 1 habitat survey. Here at Indigo Surveys Ltd, we recommend that this extra phase of detailed analysis be taken out on an area, whatever the size or scope of the project at hand.


What does an extended Phase 1 ecological survey entail?

As is apparent from the word extended, this next section of a Phase 1 habitat survey is required in order to produce a much more detailed survey than the initial standard phase. It will include the sourcing of detailed Ecological Records Data from the local records centre and the site will be surveyed further to include evidence of protected species and the suitable habitats for those protected species, if there are any present on site.

As with the initial phase, there can often be seasonal constraints as to when the extended survey can be carried out, but they are an important requirement of any planning application and for many planning authorities an extended Phase 1 survey is a stipulation of any successful planning application.

Once completed, an extended Phase 1 habitat survey will offer detailed recommendations to a developer on how to proceed with the project without having a negative impact on any species and habitat present that are protected. This can include straightforward measures such as looking after areas where nesting birds are present, or complex methodology to deal with pest species, such as Japanese knotweed.

We are highly committed to delivering high-quality, practical, reliable and innovative project solutions, whilst also ensuring that we always comply with relevant policy and legislation. We have worked with a number of clients over the years, within many different types of developments and phase one ecology survey and phase one habitat survey services of varying scales.


How long is a phase 1 habitat survey valid for?

Survey information in a phase 1 survey will usually be valid for two years from the date of the survey, although any variation in this will be specified in our report. All work in relation to Phase 1 habitat surveys will be in accordance with British Standard BS42020:2013 Biodiversity – Code of practice for planning and development.


How much does a phase 1 habitat survey cost?

The costs of a Phase 1 Habitat survey will very much be dependent on the size of a site, the complexity of the site in relation to the habitats, and the distance the ecologist carrying out the survey has to travel. We will provide a bespoke quote for each project and try to identify any issues at as early a stage as possible.


What further surveys might be needed following a phase 1 habitat survey?

On some sites, no further surveys may be required and a survey report could be used to support a planning application. Some of the additional surveys that could be required might include surveys for plants, newts, reptiles, breeding and wintering birds, badgers, bats, dormice, invertebrates, otters, red squirrels, and water voles to name but a few.

These protected species surveys are generally the second phase of ecological assessment of a site, but there is such a thing as a Phase 2 habitat survey which relates more specifically to a more detailed vegetation survey of the site, also called ‘National Vegetation Classification’ (NVC). For many sites, this level of vegetation survey is not usually required.


For more information on how we could conduct a habitat survey on your behalf, please call our team on 0333 123 7080 or email on info@indigosurveys.co.uk.



“We have retained Indigo Surveys to undertake measured surveys and tree services for various projects over the last 5 years and have always found the price, quality and customer service to be excellent. Andrew Turnbull is exceptionally helpful, easy to contact and always responds to queries in a timely manner.”

Claire Williams
Project Manager

“I have worked with Indigo on many school projects. Many ran at the same time and had very short pre-construction programmes. Indigo were proactive and able to meet the challenging programmes, which enabled us to meet all submission dates for approval. We were kept aware of all ecology/arboricultural issues from the outset.”

Jane Shaw
Senior Design Manager

“Indigo’s role in the Project Team was crucial in obtaining Planning Permission on a complex and challenging site. Their expert arboricultural knowledge resulted in successful negotiations with the Planning Authority and helped make the project feasible while also ensuring that it preserved the character of the site.”

Graeme Mill
Project Architect

“We used Andy at Indigo Surveys for a difficult planning scheme in Wimbledon Village and found his knowledge and strategy in dealing with the various issues thrown up very impressive and the added footprint that this gave the client on the scheme was invaluable. We continue to use Indigo Surveys Ltd for Arboricultural Consultancy services, and would be very happy to recommend them.”

Martin Down
Managing Director