A vast majority of potential development sites across England, Wales and Scotland are in fact suitable habitats for reptiles. But what does this mean for a potential development site?
Reptiles are protected by European and UK law, there is some variation between England and Wales and Scotland, but they are both very similar.
All reptiles in England and Scotland are protected and found on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) Section 9(1) and 9(5) e.g:
Smooth snake (not Scotland)
Sand lizard (not Scotland)
Advice given to developers by the government states that planners must consider how a development might affect protected species on or near a proposed development during the review process for a planning application.
As a result, reptiles need to be considered as part of the planning process as they are protected by legislation and failure to mitigate impacts on a population could result in fines and/or imprisonment.
What action should you take?
Initially it is recommended that, prior to any planning application, an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey is conducted which will identify any habitats on site which have the potential to support reptiles. Depending on the size of the site it should take no longer than a day to survey with an approximately three days to produce a report and a map of the habitats.
If this survey finds that reptiles are likely to be on site, then a dedicated reptile survey should be carried out following recommended guidelines. This usually involves setting out reptile tiles in suitable reptile habitats. These are inspected over seven visits and reptiles and their location are recorded. This will give an indication of the size of the reptile population on site.
Should reptiles are found during the survey, there are a number of mitigation techniques to allow a development to begin. This all depends on where the reptiles are on site and how many are there.
When should surveys be carried out?
Surveys for reptiles are ideally carried out late spring/early summer and in late summer with April, May and September being the best months.
Temperatures should be between 10oC and 17oC and conducted in intermittent sunshine but not very bright sunny days, sometimes sunshine after showers can produce the best results.
If you have had a survey and there are reptiles on your site, there are mitigation measures open to avoid harming them:
Change the layout of your development to avoid reptile habitats,
Compensate for any loss of habitat by linking to other habitats or by creating new ones;
Create a suitable receptor area (which is not being developed) just off site. Vegetation clearance on the development site should then displace the reptiles to colonise the undisturbed receptor area.
Trapping & Translocation
If the above mitigations are not viable, then a programme of trapping and translocation to an alternative suitable receptor site is possible.
The timings of trapping & translocation should always be discussed with a suitably qualified and experienced surveyor.
What does it involve?
Trapping & translocation involves fencing off the areas where reptiles were found using special reptile fencing installed by an experienced contractor. Reptile refugia tiles are laid out in the fenced off areas and inspected on a daily to twice daily basis and any reptiles found are collected.
They should be removed to a receptor site as soon as possible. Trapping and translocation should continue, for a low population, for a minimum of 30 days and for another five days should no more reptiles be found up to a maximum of 60 days. Once the five days clear have passed vegetation should be reduced under supervision of a qualified ecologist who can remove any reptiles that have been missed.
How can Nevis help?
At Nevis Environmental we have experienced ecologists who have track records in reptile surveying, advising on mitigation and trapping and translocation of reptiles. We can carry out initial habitat surveys which will assess your development site and advise you if reptiles could be present.
We will organise and set up dedicated reptile surveys to determine presence and absence as well as a population estimate if they are found. Following this, Nevis can put together a plan of mitigation that will be tailored to your site to allow for your development to proceed without harming reptiles and avoiding breaches in wildlife legislation.
Take the hassle out of your planning process and get Nevis on-board to handle all your project’s Environmental Management needs.