During the scoping process there is regularly an onus (often from clients) on demonstrating sufficient justification for surveys to be scoped in. It is however, an underlying presumption of these guidelines that bird surveys (breeding/non-breeding) should always be scoped in unless robust justification can be provided as to why they are not required. This presumption is due to the wide range of habitats that may be of value to bird species, seasonal variations in habitat use and/or value, the mobility of bird species and the potential sensitivity of bird species to a range of impacts that may result from development projects.
The scoping process should be proportionate to the scale and nature of the proposed development and be undertaken with a clear understanding of the available desk study information.
Depending on the nature, sensitivity and significance of the proposed development there may additionally be a requirement to undertake consultation with, and obtain agreement from, Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations (SNCOs) and/or other consultees during the scoping process.
Regardless of the decision made regarding the scoping of bird surveys, any documentation produced justifying this decision should be compliant with the EcIA checklist for local authority planning officers, produced by CIEEM and the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE).
Considerations for proportionate scoping
When considering bird survey requirements, the following factors should be considered to ensure an appropriate and proportionate approach is taken:
- The size, scale and nature of the proposed development including:
- the extent and nature of works within the proposed development boundary both during construction, operation and decommissioning, and;
- the timing of works relative to seasonal bird activity.
- Desk study data including bird records, designated sites (within, adjacent or connected to the site) that include birds in their designation and other contextual information. One place to start would be with the BTO Data reports. These reports provide rigorous scientific information to inform fieldwork decisions and desk studies for Ecological Impact Assessment of potential development sites.
- Whether the effects are likely to be temporary or permanent;
- whether temporary effects will occur over the short- or long-term;
- what the likely significance of these effects will be.
- The likely nature and extent of effects resulting from the proposed development in particular:
- the location of the proposed development site within the country, and relative to areas of high biodiversity value (for example wildlife corridors, habitat mosaics or statutory and non-statutory nature conservation sites).
- The habitats present within, and in close proximity to, the proposed development site in particular:
- how much habitat may be lost or enhanced by the development proposals;
- how these habitats may be of value to bird species;
- how these habitats may be used throughout the year by bird species; and,
- what bird species these habitats may support.
For some projects it may be appropriate to consult with a range of organisations. This may provide useful information on the local area (e.g. by consulting with a local bird club or RSPB group) or consulting with SNCOs, which may inform the scoping decision on whether bird surveys are required.