Protected species and your development?

Hibernating Doormouse

Great crested newts are a species of amphibians identified as of principle importance in England under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) 2006. They are found throughout the UK, and are fully protected due to loss of habitat and recent decline in numbers. The Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended) and the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981 make it illegal to deliberately injure, kill, capture or disturb a great crested newt or to damage, destroy or obstruct any places used for shelter and protection.


Largely nocturnal, great crested newts live in rural, urban and suburban habitats, in any size body of water, ditches or temporary pools, and spend most of the year within approximately 500m of breeding pond. Breeding takes place between March and June, which is the optimum timeframe for surveys. Mitigation measures could include habitat management and creation, such as amphibian fencing, log piles, scrub planting and pond construction.


Protected under the law, otters live in a variety of watercourses and their cubs can be born year round. Works must stop immediately if an otter or its place of shelter is found on site after works have started. Habitat suitability assessments to determine the likely presence of otters are required and are used to target further surveys if necessary.


All reptiles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and NERC Act 2006, making it illegal to intentionally kill or injure a common reptile. Rare reptiles also received additional legal protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Local authorities also have a legal duty to take their conservation into account, making reptiles a material consideration in the planning process. Dry heathlands are the best natural habitats for British reptiles, but semi-natural areas with heath-like conditions such as railway embankments, road verges, churchyards, golf courses and almost any area with a sunny south-facing slope and open vegetation may be suitable. Surveys can only be carried out between April and September, and even then the survey window is dependent on weather conditions.


If reptiles are confirmed to be present, it will be necessary to undertake mitigation procedures, usually involving translocation, to ensure that reptiles are not harmed by the proposed development preparation and construction works.


Water voles are legally protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and NERC Act 2006, following a dramatic decline in numbers during the last century. Water voles are found in slow flowing rivers, lakes, ditches and ponds. Surveys should be conducted between March and September. Again, it is essential that any potential water vole habitat is fully surveyed before planning consent is given to avoid the risk of fines.


So, ecology surveys are critical for projects requiring planning consent, and timing is critical for conducting ecology surveys. It’s vital to plan accordingly; there are only certain times of the year when surveys can be carried out to gather sufficient evidence. The survey, conducted to follow all relevant good practice, will uncover a level of potential – low, moderate or high – for the species using the habitat. At this point, the Ecologist will take a pragmatic approach and advise on an appropriate course of action or mitigation strategy.


Identifying and investigating the wildlife as early as possible within the survey window can avoid lengthy delays. Proceeding without undertaking a survey, or regardless of the survey results, can result in fines or even a prison sentence. It’s not worth getting it wrong and it could even enhance rather than be to the detriment of your project. Consult an ecologist as soon as possible, and when the survey results are known, plan the next steps, stay within the law and protect the UK’s wildlife.


Rosie Lodge



Rosie is a Sustainability Consultant and Ecologist for Eight Associates. She holds a BSc Biological Sciences and an MSc Environmental Sustainability, and is a licensed Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM assessor, with experience in providing assessments for a broad range of building types. Prior to Eight Associates, Rosie held sustainability consultant roles at Max Fordham, WSP and URS. Rosie specialises in carrying out ecological site surveys, bat inspections and detector surveys, Extended Phase 1 Habitat and breeding bird surveys. She has produced many ecological reports covering mitigation, enhancement and long term management of biodiversity. Rosie is also involved in biological research and conservation fieldwork, working abroad in reserves and national parks and through universities and NGOs in the UK.



Similar Posts