England’s six native species of reptile all have legal protection. They sometimes occur on land subject to development threats. If development proceeds there may be adverse consequences for the reptiles, as well as breaches of the legislation. Mitigation can minimise the risks of committing an offence. Recent evidence shows that in many cases, carefully planned and implemented mitigation can offset the negative impacts of development.
Natural England advises that developers should use the guidelines (published in September 2011) to help avoid or reduce impacts on reptile populations and to ensure that there is at least no net loss to local conservation status. The best way to achieve this goal is to seek professional advice from an ecological consultant with proven experience in reptile mitigation.
Deciding what type of survey to undertake will depend on a range of considerations. The first step is to assess what broad impact the development might have on a reptile population, if one were present.
Then, there are several different surveys to consider, including:
- Habitat suitability assessment;
- Presence/absence surveys; and
- Population size class assessment.
Impact assessment is key, as effective mitigation requires a sound understanding of the potential impacts of a development. The likelihood of some threats can be greatly increased by development, and this can be important even when the footprint is outside areas used by reptiles.
In terms of mitigation, numerous strategies can be employed depending on the nature of the development. Some to be considered include:
- On site - Habitat creation, restoration and enhancement;
- Off site – Receptor site selection and habitat creation, restoration and enhancement;
- Capture, exclusion and relocation/translocation.
From initial impact assessment, through to mitigation strategies and post-development measures, Ecosulis has the expertise to help developers achieve Natural England’s key mitigation objectives of:
- Protecting reptiles from any harm that might arise during development work; and
- Ensuring that there is no net loss of local reptile conservation by providing sufficient quality, quantity and connectivity of habitat to accommodate the reptile population in the long term, either on site or at an alternative site nearby.
By following Natural England’s guidelines, and using necessary understanding and expertise, Ecosulis can ensure that developers do not face the consequences of breached legislation as a result of harming England’s protected reptile species.