It is important to seek expert advice when you are applying for planning permission, altering the management of your land or carrying out other works, which could affect significant species, habitats or wildlife features.
It can be difficult to find the correct expert. This web-page provides some ideas on where and how you can find the appropriate consultant or specialist.
Guide to selecting and appointing an ecological consultant or specialist
The choice of consultants or specialists able to undertake work in relation to planning applications or similar schemes can be guided by the following principles:
1. Membership of an appropriate Institute
Ecological consultants, whether working independently or employed by a consultancy are normally members of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. CIEEM can provide information on its members who work as consultants.
When you require a formal Environmental Impact Analysis, membership by a consultancy or individual of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment is a useful indication of competence.
2. Knowledge of the local area
Knowledge of the local area can be useful in understanding the relative importance of different species, habitats and features and is often linked to having good contacts with local contractors, wildlife organisations and voluntary wildlife recorders. It can also lead to a better understanding of local biodiversity policies, action plans, constraints and opportunities.
3. "In house" expertise
Not all environmental or planning consultancies will have their own in-house nature conservation specialists and you may wish to use other freelance consultants, particularly when cases/ sites require a multi-skilled approach. In such a case it is advisable for you to ascertain who the specialist or consultant will be, and what professional qualifications or relevant expertise they possess.
4. Relevant experience and knowledge
It is important to ensure that your ecological consultant or specialist is qualified and experienced in the relevant fields, for example an ecologist with extensive experience of working on estuarine birds may not have the appropriate experience to survey flower-rich meadows. It may even be necessary for you to appoint additional specialists for particular parts of the project, for example specialist surveys; mitigation work or acting as an ecological clerk of works. (Consultant ecologists may also be able to help in briefing other staff, for example giving "tool-box talks" to construction teams.)
5. Legal requirements
It is important to ascertain whether the consultant that you have appointed has all the appropriate legal documentation and qualifications that are required both within their profession and for health and safety etc.
Some species groups require those working with them to hold special licences or for the work itself to be licensed, for example in order to handle bats, a consultant should be a licensed bat worker and the development work will be subject to a licence from the Wildlife Management & Licensing Service, Natural England.
6. Located or based locally
Is your expert located locally or will you be charged for their travelling time and mileage ? It is important to establish this before you appoint any expert advisor. This is particularly important since ecological survey work sometimes requires repeat visits, visits in the early morning (eg for bird surveys), or at night (eg for bat or badger surveys).
7. Tenders and detailed written proposals
It is always advisable to seek, for comparative purposes, several written tenders that include details of the work that the consultants would undertake. It may be helpful to ask for a 'day rate' for any additional work that may also be required.
Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance should be held by the consultants to cover the costs of any legal liabilities established against them.
9. References and recommendations
It may be useful to ask for references from any potential consultant for similar projects that they have carried out. Local contacts can also be a good source of information about suitable consultants.
Please note that relevant ecological data may be available from the Local Records Centre - Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records.
The data has been collected by volunteers, the Wildlife Trust, consultants and local authorities and is stored and collated by the Landscape Research Centre and then made available in response to requests for data. There is likely to be a small charge for this service. A reputable consultant would carry out this service on your behalf but you may wish to use this service before engaging the services of a consultant.
Where do consultants and specialists advertise?
Ecological specialists and consultants often advertise in the relevant magazines and periodicals, for example:
- In Practice (produced by the CIEEM)
- Planning (produced by Planning Resource)
Wildlife and ecological trusts
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is the county's leading conservation charity dedicated to wildlife. It is part of a national partnership of 47 local wildlife trusts with a junior branch, Wildlife Watch. For more information please visit:
- Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust website
The Cotswold Water Park Trust
The Cotswold Water Park Trust is an environmental charity working to improve all 40 square miles of the Cotswold Water Park for people and wildlife. For more information please visit:
- Cotswold Water Park Trust website
The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)
CIEEM is the professional body that represents and supports ecologists and environmental managers in the UK, Ireland and abroad. It provides a variety of services to develop competency and standards in ecology and environmental management. For more information please visit: