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You are here: Ecology explained

Synopsis

Professionals working in planning and development related industries are increasingly encountering the requirement to consider the impacts of proposals on the ecology of and within the vicinity of a site. Initially the aspects of ecology such as protected species legislation, survey effort and mitigation schemes can seem difficult to negotiate within the planning process. This paper aims to explain why ecology needs to be considered in planning applications in terms of the governing legislation and policy and to provide an account of best practice in dealing with the most commonly encountered issues.

Legislation and policy

Key Legislation

It is important to have an understanding of why there is a requirement to consider ecology in plans to develop a site. The requirement stems from key pieces of legislation and policy which govern the protection of wildlife. Legislation that is of key relevance to planning applications is presented below.

1. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.

This transposes the EU Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) into domestic law. These consolidate the numerous amendments that were made to the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 which preceded the 2010 Regulations. The most commonly encountered species in planning applications listed on Schedule 2 of these Regulations are:

  • All species of bat
  • Otter
  • Dormouse
  • Great crested newt
  • Sand lizard
  • Smooth snake.

This legislation makes it an offence to deliberately capture, kill or injure individuals of these species and to damage or destroy their breeding site or place of shelter. It is also illegal to deliberately disturb these species in such a way as to be likely to significantly affect: (i) the ability of any significant group of the species to survive, breed or rear or nurture their young; or (ii) the local distribution or abundance of the species. Amendments made to the Habitat Regulations in August 2007and January 2009 increased the threshold of illegal levels of disturbance to European Protected Species (EPS). An offence is now only committed if the deliberate disturbance would result in significant impacts to the EPS population. However, it should be noted that activities that cause low levels of disturbance to these species continue to constitute an offence under Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended).

DEFRA Circular 01/2005: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation – Statutory Obligations and their Impact within the Planning System dictates that where development has the potential to impact on protected species the results of a protected species survey must be submitted with a planning application. This has become a key issue at the Planning Application stage as Planning Authorities are increasingly complying with these obligations protected species surveys are no longer conditioned within planning consents, but planning applications are now regularly and routinely refused purely on these grounds.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are also protected under this legislation. These are a network of sites designated for supporting habitats or species of high nature conservation importance in the European context. Any activity that has a detrimental effect on these European sites is an offence under the Regulations. Where a development is likely to have a significant impact on a European site, the Regulations require a rigorous assessment of the impacts, known as an Appropriate Assessment.

2. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (and amendments).

Protected fauna and flora are listed under Schedules 1, 5 and 8 of the Act. Species likely to be of relevance include:

  • All species of bat. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb any bat whilst it is occupying a roost or to intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost
  • All species of British reptile (the most commonly encountered are grass snake, common lizard, adder and slow-worm). It is illegal to kill or injure these species
  • Water vole. It is an offence to intentionally kill, injure, or disturb water voles, or to damage or destroy their burrows (whilst in use or being built)
  • Otter. It is illegal to obstruct access to any structure or place which otters use for shelter or protection or to intentionally or recklessly disturb any otter while it is using such a place
  • Barn owl / kingfisher. It is an offence to disturb any nesting bird listed on Schedule 1 or their young, including kingfisher.

This Act also makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird or to take, damage or destroy their eggs and nests (whilst in use or being built).

Schedule 9 of the Act lists those species for which it is an offence to plant or cause their spread. Species listed under Schedule 9 that are most likely to be encountered are Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are also protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. These are a network of sites identified as being of national nature conservation importance and hence afforded legal protection.

3. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

This Act strengthens nature conservation and wildlife protection through a number of mechanisms. It places a duty on government ministers and departments to conserve biological diversity, provides police with stronger powers relating to wildlife crimes, and improves protection and management of SSSIs.

4. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

This Act makes it an offence to willfully take, injure or kill a badger; cruelly mistreat a badger; interfere with badger setts, sell or possess a live badger; mark or ring a badger. A licence is required for work that may result in disturbance to badgers using a sett. Generally activities using medium to heavy-weight machinery within 20 metres of a sett is considered to constitute disturbance. Use of hand tools is permitted within the 20 metres providing activities do not obstruct or damage sett entrances.

5. Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996.

This Act provides protection for all wild animals from intentional acts of cruelty.

6. Hedgerow Regulations 1997.

These Regulations establish a set of criteria for assessing the importance of hedgerows. Where a hedgerow is deemed to be ‘important’ its removal is prohibited without consent from the local planning authority.

Key policy

Policy relating to ecology that needs to be a key consideration in planning applications are listed below.

1. Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 9: Biodiversity and geological conservation.

This sets out the government’s vision for biodiversity in England with the broad aim that planning, construction, development and regeneration should maintain and enhance, restore or add to biodiversity and geological conservation interests. PPS9 includes sections on legally protected species and sites. It also contains a section on species listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and requires planning authorities to protect these species from the adverse effects of development.

2. Local Sites (including Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs) and
Biological Notification Sites (BNSs)/County Wildlife Sites (CWSs)).

These are a network of sites designated for their nature conservation importance in a local context. Although they are not afforded legal protection they contribute towards local and national biodiversity and are invariably identified within every Borough or Districts Local Plan. For example in Basingstoke and Deane’s Local Plan (adopted in JULY 2006) policy E7 indicates that activities that would have a detrimental effect on these sites should be avoided unless the need for development outweighs the nature conservation value of the site and appropriate mitigation and compensation measures are available.

3. Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs).

BAPs set out policy for protecting and restoring priority species and habitats as part of the UK’s response as signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity. BAPs operate at both a national and local level with priority species and habitats identified at a national level and a series of local BAPs that identify ecological features of particular importance to a particular area of the country. The requirement to consider and contribute towards BAP targets was strengthened through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and policy in PPS9. Habitat and Species Action Plans that are commonly of relevance include:

  • Brown long-eared bat
  • Common pipistrelle bat
  • Great crested newt
  • All British reptiles
  • Bullfinch
  • Song thrush
  • House sparrow
  • Dry acid grasslands
  • Lowland meadows
  • Lowland calcareous grasslands

The practical implementation

This section of this paper aims to explain the practical implications of this legislation and policy to activities that are subject to planning permission. In order to demonstrate differing levels of ecological survey and mitigation requirements, for the purposes of this paper developments have been divided into three scales:

1. Small scale:
This refers to projects such as loft conversions, demolish and rebuild projects on a one-for-one basis within the same footprint and barn conversions with no associated landscaping or new outbuildings etc.

2. Medium scale:
This refers to projects that will involve landtake in some shape of form, be it the construction of a house within a garden plot to small housing developments, barn conversions involving re-landscaping of surrounding habitat as gardens, change of use of land such as from grazing to a campsite, erection of industrial units on brown or Greenfield sites.

3. Large scale:
This refers to operations that are subject to full Environmental Impact Assessment. The criteria for this are listed on Annexes 1 and 2 of Directive 97/11/EC. These include large scale projects such as the installation of an airport, long distance railways or roads, large housing developments or quarries or waste disposal facilities to name but a few examples. A full environmental impact assessment includes detailed reports for a range of disciplines ranging from archaeology to air and noise pollution to ecology, the chapters of which all need to be prepared by specialists in these areas. The impacts are then assessed against a set of criteria using matrices developed within each discipline to assess the level of impact (off-set against possible mitigation for any identified impacts), which determines whether or not a project is worthy of being granted permission.

The level of ecological survey and mitigation varies considerably between small and medium scale developments. However, the principles of the level of ecological survey effort and the type of mitigation and compensation that is required is similar for both medium and large scale developments. The key difference lies in the presentation and analysis of the results, particularly in the assessment of cumulative impacts with other disciplines. This paper aims to explain survey requirements for a range of situations and provide examples of the level of mitigation and compensation that would be expected as standard. A comprehensive explanation of Environmental Impact Assessment would warrant a paper of its own, presented by an expert in the field of compiling these documents and therefore whilst it is important to acknowledge, this paper does not attempt to provide detail on the process and therefore survey and mitigation requirements for medium and large scale developments are combined here.

Small scale developments

The most common ecological issues that relate to this scale of development are bats, barn owl and nesting birds.

Bats

To refresh, all British bats are European Protected Species listed on Schedule 2 of the Conservation or Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (and amendments). A number of bats are also listed as UK and local Biodiversity Action Plan species.

In practical terms this means that for every planning application affecting potential bat habitat a bat survey is required at the planning application stage. Bats roost in a wide variety of sites within buildings, with many species roosting in cracks and crevices, within rubble stone or cavity walls, under slates and within timber beam joints where they are difficult to see. Bats often access buildings at key areas such as the gable end, soffits, barge boards, ridge tiles, between double lintels or around window frames.

The first stage is to conduct a presence / absence bat survey and to make an assessment of a building for its potential to support roosting bats. This should be undertaken by an experienced ecologist and involves them undertaking a direct search for signs that bats have been roosting in a building. It is worth noting that where anybody is entering a known bat roost it is illegal to do so without a licence to disturb bats. The presence of roosting bats can be spotted through signs such as accumulations of moth or butterfly wings or bat droppings and staining around potential entrance and exit points. However, the absence of droppings cannot be treated as conclusive evidence that bats are not using the buildings and therefore an assessment of the potential of the buildings to support bats must also be made. The following scale is a useful tool for determining the potential for bats:

There can be three resulting scenarios from this initial bat survey.

1. No evidence of bat was encountered and a building was assessed as being of low or negligible value as roosting habitat. Where no evidence of roosting bats is encountered during the survey and the building is found to hold low or negligible in terms of the number of features that it supports a negative bat report can be issued and is sufficient for submission with an application.

2. No evidence of bat was encountered although the building was assessed as holding medium or high potential. Bats can squeeze themselves into extremely small crevices and use access points as small as a two pence piece. In this situation an evening emergence survey should be conducted to confirm whether bats are present. These surveys are dependent on bats being active and therefore must be carried out between mid-May and early-September. It is important to acknowledge that many protected species surveys are seasonal and may therefore influence timescales of a project. An emergence survey involves ecologists literally staking out a building and recording any bats that leave the building. This is achieved through a combination of visual observations and a bat detector with specialist recording equipment from which bat calls can be analysed using a computer programme that produces sonograms. Where no bats are recorded, in most situations a negative bat report will be produced and submitted with the planning application. If bats are recorded emerging from the building further survey work must be conducted before a planning application can be submitted.

3. Evidence of bat occupation has been found. Where evidence of bats has been encountered according to established survey guidelines a minimum of two emergence surveys must be undertaken, and one of these should be combined with a dawn re-entry survey. It is also worth noting that where rarer species such as horseshoe bats are suspected or confirmed a greater level of survey effort may be required. This provides the information on which a mitigation scheme can be devised, the details of which must be submitted with a planning application.

Mitigation and compensation

Mitigation refers to measures implemented to prevent killing or injuring protected species whilst compensation refers to measures implemented to compensate for the loss of habitat for a particular species.

The finer details of mitigation and compensation are always site specific although the general principles are the same. They must include the following;

1. Demolition or refurbishment work must be programmed for a time when bats are least likely to be occupying a roost. Bats are often nomadic by nature and will take up residence at several different sites throughout the year. The table below illustrates the ideal times for work to different bat roosts.

2. Temporary roosting opportunities must be provided before work can commence. This is usually achieved by erecting bat boxes of a design most suited to the species of bat in a particular roost on trees or other buildings in the vicinity.

3. A pre-work bat check will be undertaken by a licensed bat ecologist and any bats will be captured and relocated to the bat boxes. In circumstances where it is suspected that there is a high possibility that bats may also be present a licensed bat ecologist will need to supervise the dismantling of a roof so that any bats encountered under tiles or within crevices can be safely and legally relocated to the bat boxes.

4. A permanent replacement roost must be provided that reflects the species, numbers of bats and type of roost that is present. The objective of this should be to mimic conditions of the existing roost as closely as possible whilst providing additional potential roosting opportunities. In addition access into the replacement roost must be provided. The diagrams below illustrate some of the most frequently implemented roosting and access features incorporated within a replacement roost.

5. Post-development monitoring. Inspections of the replacement roost for signs of roosting bat and emergence surveys, conducted once or twice a year for two years following the completion of the development are the standard requirements.

The following diagrams illustrate the type of compensatory habitat features that would be incorporated within a roof void.

The three Habitats Regulations derogation tests

Recent case law (R (on the application of Simon Woolley) v Cheshire East Borough Council, June 2009) has established that planning authorities now need to consider the following three derogation tests before planning permission affecting a European Protected Species can be granted:

1. The development is in the interests of public health and safety or is required for other imperative reasons of overriding public interest.

2. There is no satisfactory alternative to the development.

3. The development will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the bat populations concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range.

European protected species licences

In most cases where a bat roost will be affected by a development a European Protected Species Licence (EPS) is required. This can only be applied for once planning permission has been granted and can take up to 6 weeks to process. The licence application presents the mitigation strategy as presented at the planning application stage and is submitted to Natural England. Once granted the Licence is a legally binding document.

Barn owl

To refresh, barn owl are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure, or disturb barn owls, or to take, damage or destroy their eggs and nests (whilst in use or being built).

Similarly to that described above for the bats, in practical terms this means that where suitable barn owl habitat will be affected by the proposals a barn owl survey is required. This is most likely to apply to barn conversions.

A barn owl survey literally entails a direct search for signs of barn owl, including droppings, pellets, feathers and suitable nest sites. Unlike with the bats, the presence and status of barn owls can usually be determined in one survey visit. The ecologist only requires a licence to enter a site where barn owls are known to be breeding and to inspect known nests.

Mitigation and compensation are determined by the useage of a building by barn owls. Where there is a confirmed breeding site work must be timed so that the birds are not disturbed whilst the nest is active. Barn owls generally breed between March and September but are often known to breed all year round, particularly where nesting was hindered by bad weather during the summer months. If a barn supports roosting barn owls only there are no timing restrictions.

Where a building supports a nest site ideally opportunities for a nest site should be incorporated within the design of the new-build or conversion. An example of how this can be achieved is illustrated in the diagram below. Where this is not possible a series of barn owl boxes must be erected on trees in the vicinity or in other agricultural barns which are not affected by the proposals. To compensate for a nest site a minimum of three boxes would be appropriate, where as one or two would be suitable to compensate for a roost site depending on the extent of use.

Nesting birds

To refresh all bird’s nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981 (and amendments) while in use or being made. A presence / absence survey will determine whether birds are or have previously nested in an attic or barn for example. Mitigation will include timing works outside of bird nesting season or a suitably qualified ecologist doing a check immediately prior to work commencing. Where an active bird’s nest is encountered work must be postponed until the chicks have fledged. Provision of replacement nest sites through the erection of bird boxes or incorporation of suitable shrubs for nesting birds in the soft landscaping is considered to be best practice, but not a legal requirement.

Medium scale developments

Biodiversity checklists

Many planning authorities, or County Council’s, have now produced biodiversity checklists. These are tools by which the requirement for further ecological surveys can be identified, and whilst it is preferred that a qualified ecologist completes this form they can provide useful tools to planning applicants to help establish the potential ecological constraints that they may encounter.

Extended phase 1 habitat survey

This is the first stage of assessing a site and the quality of habitats that it supports and identifying the potential for a site to support protected species. This is often needed in order to complete the biodiversity checklist, and the biodiversity checklist is not intended as an alternative to undertaking one of these scoping surveys.

A phase 1 habitat survey will therefore identify the following:

1. The presence of any statutorily or non-statutorily designated site either within or adjacent to the site of a proposed development. The survey should incorporate a desk study where this information is sought from internet sources and / or the local biodiversity records centre. The nature and proximity of a designation will determine the level of compensation required.

2. The presence of any Biodiversity Action Plan habitats. This is relatively unusual as the majority of habitats of quality are encompassed within designations within the UK although it does occur from time to time. Where possible these habitats should be retained within the design of a development, and where this is not possible compensation is required either through the incorporation of habitat creation within the soft landscaping or occasionally offsite habitat creation or management can off-set the loss of a habitat.

3. The presence of invasive species such as Japanese knotweed or giant hogweed. A strategy of how these species will be responsibly eradicated will need to be presented within the report.

4. The requirement for further targeted protected species surveys, the most common of which are discussed below. The phase 1 surveys will also incorporate a desk study which will identify.

Bats

As discussed earlier in this paper for small scale developments bats are protected by both domestic and European legislation. The protocol for any buildings on site is exactly the same as that described under small scale developments.

However, bats will also roost in trees, and regard for the effects of a development on bat foraging habitat is also necessary.

Bats will exploit features features on trees such as rot holes, former woodpecker holes, splits or even loose or flaking bark. Any trees that require removal or tree surgery work will need to be considered.

The initial survey will entail an assessment of the trees for their potential to support roosting bats, using the same criteria as described earlier for buildings. Where only a small number of trees are application ecological consultants should conduct this initial assessment during the phase 1 survey. Where medium or high potential is found, this will trigger further survey work. A good way of eliminating or confirming a bat roost is through a tree climbing survey. These can also be conducted at any time of year which can be a useful tool in many situations. A qualified climber will assess the extent of cavities identified within the assessment and use an endoscope to search for signs of bat. These can, however, be inconclusive and emergence and dawn re-entry surveys will be required. These can only be conducted between mid-May and September and the same minimum requirements apply as for the survey of buildings.

Mitigation and compensatory measures follow the same principles as described above for buildings in terms of dictating the timing of tree felling or surgery and requiring compensatory bat roosting habitat to be provided. In the case of the loss of a tree roost, the provision of bat boxes is the most appropriate compensation.

Bat foraging habitat must also be considered. The phase 1 habitat survey will assess the quality of bat foraging habitat within a site. Features that an ecologist would look for are dense hedgerows, mature trees or other linear features such as river corridors or adjacent railway lines. Where good quality foraging habitat is present activity surveys will be required. These entail surveyors walking the site in transects which encompass the habitats that have been identified as being of quality and recording bat activity within the site using bat detectors and visual observations. Again, the guidelines specify a minimum requirement of at least two evening surveys with one of these being combined with a dawn survey.

Where a site is found to provide important bat foraging habitat the priority will be to preserve features that are being used and these are often the boundary features. Lighting will also need to be kept to a minimum and low output sodium lights with hooded cowls will need to be used. Some enhancement or creation of habitats to increase a site’s value to foraging bats would also be expected by the local planning authorities’ ecologists.

Badger

To refresh, badgers are protected under The Protection of Badgers Act 1992. This means that a licence is required for work that may result in disturbance to badgers using a sett. Generally activities using medium to heavy-weight machinery within 20 metres of a sett is considered to constitute disturbance.

Most ecologists will undertake a badge survey in conjunction with the phase 1 habitat survey. In some circumstance the extent of badger activity within a site, or the size of the site will warrant a targeted badger survey. The badger survey literally involves a direct search for signs of badger which include setts, latrines or dung pits, hairs, characteristic foraging ‘snuffle holes’ and well-worn mammal tracks characteristic of this species. Any setts encountered will be assessed according to the number of entrance holes. This can range from over six entrances indicating a main breeding sett to a one entrance outlier.

Where the loss or disturbance of a badger sett is unavoidable a licence will be needed from Natural England to disturb, partially or fully close the sett. Licences for disturbance or the closure of a sett will only be issued between the months of July and November. The level of mitigation and compensation is obviously relative to the level of disturbance and the nature of the sett. Setts are closed with the use of one-way gates which allow the badger to leave but not to return. Compensation may range from providing mounds of earth in the vicinity thus providing opportunities for badgers to excavate themselves an alternative home to the creation of large artificial setts constructed from clay or plastic pipe and chambers made from wood.

Reptiles

To refresh, there are six species of reptile native to Britain. Two of these, the sand lizard and smooth snake, are protected under the European Habitats Regulations. However, these have an extremely restricted distribution in the UK and are rarely encountered as a development related issue. The remaining four, adder, grass snake, slow worm and common lizard are one of the most commonly encountered protected species issues. These are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (and amendments) and this makes it illegal to kill or injure these species.

The phase 1 habitat survey will identify whether there are habitats within a site which could support reptiles. Reptiles are widespread in habitats that provide both cover, in the form of scrub or tall vegetation, and basking areas such as areas of hard standing or short grassland communities. Piles of rubble or debris also provide excellent cover and hibernation sites. Where these habitat features are present a targeted reptile survey will be required.

Reptiles are a notoriously difficult group to survey due to their secrecy. They do, however, have an affinity for hiding under debris exposed or partially exposed to the sun. This trait is exploited by adopting a methodology based upon placing artificial refuges around the survey site thus encouraging any reptiles present to use them. Materials such as 0.25m² pieces of roofing felt, carpet or corrugated iron are used and these are laid out across a site amongst suitable reptile habitat.

These mats are left to settle for at least one week before they are checked a total of seven times according to guidelines. Reptile surveys can be conducted between April and September and the mats are checked in suitable weather conditions between 10 and 18ºC when the refuges provide greater heat than the open ground.

Where reptile species are present on site an assessment of the size of the population is made according to the criteria presented in the table below:

In the vast majority of situations where reptiles are present a translocation exercise will be necessary.
This involves erecting specialist drift fencing around the footprint and the anticipated working area of a development taking account of factors such as vehicular and plant access and storage of materials.
Drift fencing essentially forms a barrier which prevents movement of reptiles. Once the fence is erected, artificial refuges, such as those used during this survey are placed within the area from which the reptiles are to be excluded. The mats are then visited during suitable weather conditions at an appropriate time of year and any reptiles encountered are caught and safely placed in suitable habitat either outside drift fencing or in an alternative receptor site. Visits to the exclusion area need to be repeated until it can be demonstrated that no further individuals can be caught. This can vary from a minimum of ten to thirty visits depending on the size and species of the population. Visits also continue until there are five visits clear of capture. Once development is complete the fence can be removed.

The receptor site for the reptiles will preferably be provided on site, in areas that can be enhanced through the creation of hibernacula. These are essentially piles of rubble with turf coverings which provide foraging, shelter and hibernation sites for reptile species.

Great crested newt

The final commonly encountered species is the great crested newt. To refresh, this is protected under both European and domestic legislation, making it an offence to disturb, kill or injure any of these animals or to destroy their place of rest or shelter.

Potential foraging and breeding habitat for this species will also be identified within the phase 1 habitat survey. The great crested newt breeds in standing water, including ponds, reservoirs and even canals. However, they spend much of their year in terrestrial habitat. Tall grassland and woodland are the favoured habitats during the months when they are active (March to October) whilst during the winter the great crested newt hibernates, often amongst the roots of trees and scrub or in places such as piles of rubble, amongst foundations of buildings or under fallen trees and logs.

Great crested newts are known to forage up to at least 500metres from their breeding pond and as a result Natural England specify that suitable habitats that fall within that 250metres must be considered even in situations where the breeding pond itself will not be affected. The phase 1 habitat survey will therefore also identify ponds within a 250metre radius of a site.

In accordance with the latest Natural England guidelines, a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) will then be derived for ponds within or in the vicinity of the site. The HSI for the great crested newt, which was originally developed by Oldham et al. (2000), is a numerical index between 0 and 1, where 0 indicates unsuitable habitats and 1 indicates optimal habitats. The HSI incorporates ten indices ranging from water quality to fish stocks, all of which are factors believed to affect great crested newts. However, it should be noted that whilst the HSI provides a measure of habitat suitability for great crested newts, it is not a substitute for amphibian surveys.

Where ponds are found to have a high HSI score indicating that there is a good possibility that they could support great crested newts, and there is suitable terrestrial habitat on a site, further targeted surveys will be required. These are extremely seasonally restricted in that they can only be undertaken between mid-March and June with three of the survey visits being required between midApril and mid-May. It is also a labour intensive survey technique if guidelines are followed. Effective survey for great crested newts involves a minimum of three survey techniques, ideally bottle trapping, torch survey and egg searches. A total of four survey visits are required to demonstrate presence / likely absence. However, if great crested newts are present an additional two survey visits are required in order to estimate the population class size.

If a population of great crested newt is found to be present a similar strategy of mitigation is adopted as that described above for reptiles. The main difference is that in addition to the ‘mats’ that are laid down within the area that the animals are to be excluded a series of pitfall traps are also installed along the line of the drift fencing. These comprise plastic buckets installed flush with the barrier fence with their tops just below ground level.

As with the bats, because this is a European protected species, once planning permission has been granted a European Protected Species Licence will be required. In addition, the derogation tests will need to be argued and consented at the planning application stage.

Other protected species

There are a number of other protected species issues that may be encountered. This paper has aimed to cover the most commonly encountered species, but other species that may apply are dormouse, water vole, otter and white clawed crayfish. Useful references regarding these have been included in the further reading section below. Alternatively advice can be sought from Natural England, local planning authority ecologists or an ecological consultant.

Useful references:

Bat Conservation Trust (2007). Bat Surveys – Good Practice Guidelines. Bat Conservation Trust, London.

Froglife (1999). Reptile surveys. An introduction to planning, conducting and interpreting surveys for snake and lizard conservation. (Advice Sheet 10).

Gent, A.H., and Gibson, S.D., eds (1998), Herpetofauna Workers’ Manual. Peterborough, Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Mitchell-Jones, A. J. (2004), Bat Mitigation Guidelines, English Nature.

Mitchell-Jones A.J. & McLeish A.P. (2004) The Bat Workers’ Manual (3rd Edition) Joint Nature Conservation Committee

Multi-Agency Geographical Information for the Countryside (MAGIC) Website at www.magic.gov.uk

National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Gateway Website at http://www.searchnbn.net Accessed on 4th February 2008.

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2005). Circular 06/2005: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation – Statutory Obligations and their Impact within the Planning System.

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2005a). Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development.

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2005b). Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation.

 

Lindsay Carrington
Contact details: Lindsay@ecological-services.co.uk.
01929 477115. 07761132538.
For more information on items discussed in this paper please visit www.ecological-services.co.uk

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