There are six native reptile species in the UK, which in terms of status can be split into two groups. As such, varied and thorough reptile surveys are essential when considering works in their environments. The group of rare reptiles includes sand lizards and smooth snakes. The group of widespread reptiles includes adders, common lizards, grass snakes and slow worms. Rare reptiles are confined to just one or two habitats, whereas widespread reptile occupy a more diverse range of habitats which varies per species.
Unfortunately, all UK reptiles are declining to varying degrees as a result of habitat loss, degradation, heathland fires and fragmentation caused by humans e.g., agricultural intensification, urban development, etc. Even on protected sites they are not always safe, as standard habitat management measures do not always encourage reptiles to thrive (Edgar et al. 2010).
Reptile Survey Legislation
All reptile species are protected under UK and European Union (“EU”) laws.
Rare reptiles are listed under:
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
- The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010
Under these legislations smooth snakes and sand lizards are protected from:
- Capturing, killing, injuring and disturbing;
- Taking or destroying eggs;
- Damaging or destroying breeding/resting places;
- Obstructing access to resting places; and
- Possessing, advertising for sale, selling or transporting for sale, live or dead (part or derivative).
Widespread reptiles are listed under:
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
Under this legislation they are protected from:
- Killing and injuring; and
- Advertising for sale, selling or transporting for sale, live or dead (part or derivative).
What We Offer
Simply put, all development proposals have the potential to impact on local biodiversity. Therefore, Local Planning Authorities (“LPA”) require sufficient information to make informed decisions that wildlife can be protected from injury or disturbance during the development.
A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (“PEA”) is often required, followed by further reptile surveys if these species are likely to be present on a site for development. If reptiles are present, it is likely that a European protected species (“EPS”) licence and an appropriate mitigation strategy will be required in order to proceed with the works. Please note, EPS licences are only required for rare reptiles.
Reptile surveys must be conducted in suitable weather conditions, with a temperature between 9 and 18°C and in dry, sunny conditions.
Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (“PEA”)
A PEA is typically required as a first step to address the ecological aspects of a planning application and can be conducted at any time of year. It is an initial site assessment which includes a site visit and a desktop assessment and is used to identify habitats present on site that may support protected species. It will recommend if further reptile surveys are necessary, and any appropriate mitigation and enhancements for the proposed development.
Presence/Absence Reptile Surveys
If suitable reptile habitats are found within a site for development, reptile surveys will need to be conducted to determine the likely presence or absence of these species. These surveys usually include placing artificial refuges, such as corrugated metal sheets and roofing felt, on site and searching for basking animals on or under them. Although these surveys can be conducted from mid-March to mid-October, a number of surveys must be conducted in April, May or September.
Similar to presence/absence surveys in their methodology, population estimate surveys aim to establish the population size and distribution of reptiles on the development site. Generally, Greenlight will require a higher frequency of site visits in order to get an accurate result.
European Protected Species (“EPS”) Mitigation Licences
If the proposed works are expected to have an impact on smooth snakes or sand lizards, a mitigation licence will need to be granted by Natural England in order to proceed with the works. We are able to obtain this for you and ensure the licence includes sufficient information on the reptile populations on site (survey data), and appropriate mitigation measures.
Installation & Removal of Mitigation Fencing
Reptile mitigation fencing is used to seal the perimeter of a site for development in order to help capture any reptiles within this site and to avoid re-colonisation. We are able to both install and remove this mitigation fencing competently and as necessary.
Translocation works can only be done under an EPS mitigation licence granted by Natural England for rare reptiles and should be used as a last resort. These works include capturing reptiles, often by placing artificial refuges on the site, and moving the reptiles found to a suitable, safe and specially prepared receptor site.
A watching brief during construction works is undertaken to avoid killing or injuring individual reptiles; toolbox talks are also included. Hand searches and destructive searches are to only be conducted after a capture program and aim to find remaining reptiles which may be difficult to detect under shelters.
Mitigation & Enhancements
Every mitigation and enhancement have to be tailored specifically to site, species and issues raised. Here are some examples of mitigation and enhancements for reptiles:
- installation of reptile fencing and translocation of individuals;
- destructive searching;
- creation of artificial hibernacula, bunds and grasslands;
- reduction of shade on suitable habitats;
- creation of a vegetation mosaic through planting schemes;
- creation of refuge habitats, such as artificial hibernacula, log piles and bramble patches.
Greenlight Environmental Reptile Surveys
Our surveyors are based all around East Anglia, so you can have peace of mind that you have access to our wide range of surveys and services. If you have any questions or concerns about planning policies or environmental legislation, our team are always up to date and on-hand to help.
Don’t hesitate to contact us today with any queries.