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Posted by: Sara King BSc & Hannah Maben BSc MIEEM on 29/11/2011

In September 2011, Natural England released New Reptile Mitigation Guidelines for Developers, which Ecosulis quickly reviewed and planned to implement.  In October 2011, Natural England decided to withdraw the first edition of the Reptile Mitigation Guidelines (September 2011), in order to seek further feedback and to provide further clarification.  Natural England proposes to reissue the publication prior to the start of the next reptile survey season (spring 2012).

Implications of the Withdrawal on Recent and Current Surveys and Mitigation Strategies

Following the withdrawal of the guidelines, Natural England has advised that reptile surveys should follow the old recommended survey guidelines (Gent and Gibson 2003 and Froglife Advice Sheet 10, 1999) until the new guidelines is re-issued. This means that any surveys undertaken using these old guidelines will be accepted by Local Planning Authorities. Any surveys which have been undertaken using the new Natural England guidelines will also be accepted within planning applications. Key survey points from the old and therefore current guidelines include:

  • Standard survey methods apply to sites regardless of which species are likely to be present and suitability of the habitat

  • Reptile presence/absence surveys comprise seven site visits and can be undertaken between April and September (inclusive) during suitable weather conditions, with optimal months comprising April, May and September. If presence is confirmed, population monitoring should be undertaken (around 20 visits may be required to assess population size)

  • Ten refuges should be used per hectare during presence/absence surveys. Refuges should be constructed from roofing felt, corrugated iron sheets, plywood, wooden boards, carpet and roof tiles, measuring approximately 0.5m by 0.5m. Refuges should be placed within habitat with suitability to support reptiles

  • Survey visits should be spread out as much as possible, ideally at least every other day

Previous definitive guidance on reptile mitigation strategies is limited; however, strategies should continue to draw upon guidance including: Evaluating Local Mitigation/Translocation Programmes: Maintaining Best Practice and Lawful Standards (HGBI, 1998); and, Reptiles: Guidelines for Developers (English Nature, 2004).  Previous guidance recommends: 

  • Reptiles should be retained on site wherever possible

  • Where retention on site is not possible receptor sites should be carefully selected and ideally located within the same county or similar administrative area to the donor site

  • A Mitigation Strategy / Method Statement should be prepared in advance and agreed with the Local Planning Authority

  • Hand capture, habitat manipulation, destructive searching and fencing are recommended

  • Capture effort can range from 60-120 days* depending on the species, size of population to be translocated and capture rates

  • Captures are most profitable between April and late June, and late August and late September, but all suitable days should be used between March and September

  • For large populations several seasons of captures may be required

  • Post-translocation monitoring should be undertaken

  • Receptor sites should be subject to a long-term management plan and should not be subject to any planning or other threats for the foreseeable future

 * In our experience, the minimum number of days can often be reduced in agreement with the Local Planning Authority

Future Guidelines

Natural England plan to re-issue amended guidelines as soon as possible, which is likely to be before the start of next survey season (May to September 2012).  Key aspects of the now withdrawn guidance (September 2011) are detailed within our earlier blog ‘Natural England release new 2011 Reptile Mitigation Guidelines for Developers’. Natural England are seeking comments on these previously published reptile mitigation guidelines to inform their current review process and have requested feedback. For a more detailed summary of the proposed approach or if you would like Ecosulis to consider passing on any feedback that you might have, please contact Ecosulis.

As soon as the new guidelines are issued, Ecosulis will provide an update along with any further changes included within the guidelines.  We hope the above is of use and please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like further information or advice with regards to reptile surveys and reptile mitigation.  

Categories: Ecological Consulting
Tags: Natural England | Reptile mitigation guidelines | reptile survey | reptiles
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