Ecological Survey Update: Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Guidelines

Ecological Survey Update: First published in 2012, the Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, Produced by the Professional Standards Committee of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) have been updated for 2018 and released in their a 2nd edition.

A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) is a rapid assessment of the ecological features present, or potentially present, within a proposed development site.  Sometimes the zone of influence for features is extended slightly beyond the boundary of the site if habitat connectivity or species mobility are considered to be of relevance.

A PEA is one of our most requested surveys. With many clients choosing this to obtain an understanding of any constraints to their scheme.  They use our findings to better inform their design and layout before submitting their planning application.

A PEA normally comprises a desk study and a walkover survey.  Mapping of the habitats and ecological features of the site is typically recorded in line with JNCC phase 1 habitat survey methodology.

As the name suggests a preliminary ecological appraisal is the first stage in addressing any ecological impacts of a proposed development.


It is usually not appropriate to submit a PEA solely in support of a planning application. Because its scope is unlikely to fully meet local planning authority requirements in respect of biodiversity and protected species.

The PEA is to be used to inform of the need for any further species or habitat specific surveys.  These further surveys can then be used to prepare an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA).

Costs for both a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and an Ecological Impact Assessment do vary from site to site. As various factors will need to be accounted for by your ecologist.  These include size of site, variety of habitats to record or cost of obtaining desktop data from all relevant record holders.

There is leeway however that in some instances. For example, projects affecting a homeowner’s residence, that a PEA or EcIA is not merited.  Instead it is likely that proceeding directly with a bat survey may be more appropriate dependant on the nature of the project.

Our Ecologists are qualified and experienced professionals with an understanding of nature conservation legislation and planning and are authorities in undertaking ecological assessments.  Contract Ecology will be updating its survey reporting to reflect the new guidance.


A link to the 2nd edition of the PEA guidelines is available to download here: