Availability of receptor sites for reptiles are in short supply and this is creating new problems for clients as is demonstrated in an ongoing project involving the removal of 14ha of grassland, currently occupied by an exceptionally large population of slow worms, grass snakes and a few common lizards. Guidance for the protection of these reptiles, which are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) as amended, involves finding a suitable alternative site to move them to and that a strategy for the mitigation is agreed with the local council.
Ecosulis have undertaken extensive consultation with landowners, statutory consultees and the client, as well as completing surveys and assessments of five possible receptor sites so far in our search to find sufficient suitable land. Whilst three of the smallest sites are agreed to provide some capacity, on-going consultation and assessment is being undertaken over the remaining two, due to concerns raised by the county ecologist regarding the requirements of the forthcoming mitigation guidance from Natural England. This work commenced in August 2010 and nearly one year on, the difficulty of finding suitable alternative sites is presently at risk of delaying development works. The problem in finding new sites is the lack of land available that is suitable and not yet occupied by reptiles.
Our advice is to consider mitigation for reptiles as early on in the process as possible and get advice on what may be required to support your planning application. Consider the possibility of retaining land on site to support the existing population and the time it could take to find alternative sites. This may involve the creation of alternative habitat. New guidance from Natural England is in preparation for the survey and protection of reptiles and therefore, it is important to obtain up to date advice.