Protected species and your development?

Hibernating Doormouse

Bats look for shelter that is dark, a stable temperature, free from parasites, safe from predators or disturbance and sheltered from the weather. The most obvious sign of bats, after sightings, is droppings, but even these can be hard to find. Other signs to look for are grease marks on the rafters, urine marks, cobweb free corners, or insect remains from a feeding perch.


The outside environment is important too. Bats use linear features such as hedgerows and tree lines as commuting pathways and for acoustic orientation. Trees need to be assessed for their bat potential, and hollow trunks, cracks, crevices, dense mature ivy cover, large sections of loose or flaking bark, fractured limbs or deadwood in the canopy all increase the potential.


Trees classified as having high bat potential must be assessed for the presence of bats or roosts. Even if no evidence is found then the tree should still be treated as having a high bat potential during any arboricultural operations. If bats are confirmed and arboricultural work is not urgently required as a matter of public safety, and the intended arboricultural operations have the potential to cause a direct disturbance to bats or destroy them or their roosts, work can only proceed under licence.


A mitigation strategy is required for a bat mitigation license, and could include measures like the retention of bat roosts, foraging and commuting habitats, design modifications, timing works to minimise disturbance, and the provision of new habitats and roosts (e.g. bat boxes).


All wild birds, their nests and young are protected throughout England and Wales by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), making it illegal to kill, injure, or take any wild bird or damage or destroy the nest or eggs of breeding birds. Vulnerable species, such as barn owls, are listed on Schedule 1 of the 1981 Act and have enhanced protection when breeding.


If nests are found on site, any works with the potential to damage or destroy the nest, egg or young birds, must stop until breeding has completed. Different species nest in different places, ranging from machinery, temporary structures, scaffolding, buildings and trees. Eggs are typically laid between March and August, but the breeding season could span longer periods. If a mitigation strategy is required following the findings of a breeding bird survey, measures could include installing boxes for nesting birds.


Badgers are relatively common in the UK, particularly in the south of England and tend to occupy managed landscapes. Protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to interfere or damage an actively used badger sett without a licence. Natural England can grant a licence to conduct work between July and November to developments which already have planning consent, with a sufficient mitigation strategy, such as constructing artificial setts or nearby habitat enhancement.


The hazel dormouse, a rodent typically about 14cm in length with a rounded muzzle, thick bushy tail, very long black whiskers and big black eyes, is also protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Dormice are found throughout the UK, particularly in the south of England. Their woven, spherical nests can be up to 150mm wide can be found in scrub or trees, in summer. Smaller hibernation nests are built below ground level, for example in wood piles, rocks and base of trees.


Surveys for dormice are best undertaken in March and October, and September to November. If evidence of dormice on site is found after works have started, they must stop immediately to avoid breaking the law. At this point, the developer should consult a suitably qualified ecologist as soon as possible, as a licence may be required to continue works.


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