The British Standard for Biodiversity, BS42020:2013 Biodiversity – Code of practice for planning and development, defines an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) as
the process of identifying, quantifying and evaluating the potential impacts of defined actions on ecosystems or their components, and usually performed as one element of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Practically speaking, an EcIA is a formal part of the EIA process, a statutory requirement for major developments, such as motorways, major infrastructure projects and large housing schemes.
The process starts with gaining a detailed understanding of the ecology of a site through survey work. This would start with a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), which comprises of a desk study and an extended Phase 1 habitat survey.
This would identify any further ecology surveys required for protected species or habitats. Information gathered would then be used at an early stage of the development process to inform design.
The baseline information gathered during the PEA allows us to assess the nature conservation value of the site. Each ecological component of the site is graded on a scale of negligible to international importance.
The impact the development will have on each ecological component is used to determine its magnitude. A programme of avoidance and protection or mitigation and compensation is used to avoid or reduce any adverse ecological impact. This is then presented as an Environmental Statement chapter of the EIA as part of the planning application.