Natural England Announce New Licensing Policies
By Rachel on the 22nd February, 2017
Natural England have announced new licensing policies to benefit wildlife and business, this post introduces these policies.
Endangered species such as hazel dormice, bats and great crested newts are defined as European Protected Species (EPS) and are legally protected from harm and disturbance. Although this legal protection is important for conserving these species, there have been some cases where developers have spent significant amounts of time and money moving small numbers of animals with little conservation benefit.
At the end of 2016 Natural England announced four new policies which aim to make it easier for developers to obtain wildlife licences to permit actions that would otherwise be illegal. These policies should reduce costs and delays, while requiring investment in the creation and enhancement of habitat to provide greater security for populations of protected species.
Essentially, these policies move the focus away from conserving individual animals towards measures which are most effective at protecting whole populations of protected species. Initially, these policies are likely to be most useful for sites where great crested newts are present. We will be applying these policies wherever possible to provide significant benefits for both our clients and protected species.
1. Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating EPS from development sites
This policy removes the need for relocation or exclusion if there is a programme in place to enhance or create sufficient habitat to benefit the local population of the protected species in question. For example, for some sites this could remove the need for exclusion fencing and translocation of small numbers of great crested newts, decreasing delays at the start of development.
2. Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for habitats that will be lost
This policy aims to drive the creation of more, bigger, better and joined-up habitat by allowing creation of new habitats away from development sites. This aims to ensure a secure long-term future for the protected species.
3. Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date
Some EPS, such as great crested newts, can thrive in man-made habitats like brownfield sites and mineral workings. Currently developers often take steps to exclude EPS from these habitats due to concerns that their presence would cause delays and other issues when the land is developed at a later date. This policy will allow EPS to temporarily use such habitats if steps are taken to ensure their local conservation status is maintained over the life of the project and after it has been completed.
4. Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted
This policy offers greater flexibility in exceptional circumstances to reduce the level of survey needed. The impact of the development on the protected species must still be predicted confidently. This policy will be particularly important for cases where protected species are discovered unexpectedly, as surveys can result in expensive delays.
For the full policy wording see Natural Englands report: Proposed new policies for European Protected Species licensing.