RSK has produced this guidance note to help you understand how these changes may affect you. If you have any queries regarding EPS licences or surveys, please contact Corin Simmonds.
Natural England held a public consultation during 2016 on how four new proposed policies associated with the licensing of impacts on EPS should be implemented. Following this consultation, Natural England released the new policies in December 2016:
- Policy 1: Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating EPS from development sites
- Policy 2: Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for habitats that will be lost
- Policy 3: Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date
- Policy 4: Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted.
What this means for RSK’s clients
The most commonly encountered EPS during development projects are bat species, dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) and great crested newts (Triturus cristatus). The new policies will be of particular relevance to great crested newts. Associated with these new policies, particularly policies 1, 2 and 4, is the new district-level great crested newt licensing approach that enables developers, in certain circumstances, to avoid the need for the expensive and time-consuming surveys, trapping and translocations that are required under the current licensing system.
One case study detailing the application of Policy 1 on a site where a small population of great crested newt was identified in a pond more than 250 m from the development site saw the development continue without trapping or exclusion fencing. Instead, the focus was on habitat provision and a destructive habitat clearance search for animals before development. This avoided project delays of up to nine months. The application of this policy is likely to be most straightforward for small great crested newt populations located some distance from a breeding pond.
Policy 4 opens up the possibility of allowing a lower than standard survey effort in circumstances where the impacts of development on an EPS can be confidently predicted. For example, under Policy 4, it may be possible to stop surveying for great crested newt earlier if a large population is already proven, as there is little value in completing the six survey visits normally required for population size class assessment because nothing extra will be gained from the additional survey effort.
As yet, Natural England has not issued specific guidance on how to use the new policies, so it is up to the professional judgement of ecological consultants as to whether they are suitable for a particular project. Because the policies are new and open to interpretation, it is important that consultants use the Natural England Discretionary Advice Service to discuss projects where the use of one of the four new policies could be advantageous.
The new policies can be used individually or together, where they are compatible. The policies cannot be used with low-impact class licences. The conventional trapping and fencing options still remain and may be more appropriate in some circumstances.
For more detail on the policies, please visit gov.uk.
Lawton, J. (2010). Making space for nature: A review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological network.
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