visitor & residents surveys
We have planned and undertaken many residents and visitor surveys to determine the patterns and extent of recreational use of protected European sites.
As part of Habitats Regulations Assessment work, we have designed and carried out numerous questionnaire surveys which aim to understand the existing patterns of access to, and levels of recreational pressure on, protected European sites.
Questionnaire surveys are completed on the protected sites, with face-to-face interviews conducted as visitors exit, and door-to-door surveys are also undertaken in nearby residential areas. This approach allows us to obtain as much information about access to a site in question, as well as wider patterns of access to the countryside.
The questionnaires aim to obtain information on user profiles, the reasons for visiting particular sites, the methods of transport and travel distances to sites, and the frequency and characteristics of site use. This information is then used to inform an assessment of likely significant effects arising from proposed residential development, and to design impact avoidance and mitigation measures (such as SANG) to ensure that the European sites are not significantly affected.
The information gathered by visitor and resident surveys can be crucial in informing impact avoidance measures, and then demonstrating to a Local Authority and to Natural England that a SANG scheme is sufficiently well located and designed to be able to draw in enough visitors who might otherwise visit a European site.
We have also recently made significant investments in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how we go about undertaking these surveys. Smartphone-based questionnaires with enabled GPS now enable location-specific data to be gathered electronically and uploaded automatically into spreadsheets for analysis; saving large amounts of time that would otherwise be needed for data entry.