Approximately 18% of planning applications in London are for sites that are home to, or that potentially affect protected species or habitats. Only 1.2% of planning applicants actually request a GiGL data search to find out if protected species have been recorded within their area of influence.
Previous observation of protected species at a site should alert planners to their possible continued presence, and to the need for surveys and further steps to ensure development does not cause undue harm. The London Borough of Southwark recently asked us for a map which provides a simple but effective way of putting this into practice.
The species alert GIS layers display a 500 meter buffer around house sparrow and swift records in Southwark. Any renovation or new build planning application falling within these zones is automatically asked to try and include nest boxes for swift and/or sparrow species. This streamlines the application system by ensuring that biodiversity enhancements are considered from the outset of the planning process, reducing the need for individual planning conditions which are costly and time consuming.
Of course, swifts and swallows may be present but un-recorded, but the alert layers are a clear step in the right direction towards requiring developers to consider protected species that may be affected by their plans. Layers such as these could also be used as cues to instigate surveys for species of conservation concern that are known to occur in the area.