Reptile Surveys: The laws & processes involved

Reptile Surveys: The laws & processes involved

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In the UK, survey reports and mitigation plans are a must for developers who are proposing projects, which could potentially affect certain creatures and protected species. These reports and plans are a necessary part of being given a planning permission or a mitigation license to proceed with the project.

Bat surveys and reptile surveys are examples of such surveys, which are carried out by professional landscape architects. These surveys will show if any of such species live in that area, or within close proximity to it. Following such surveys, mitigation plans will need to be prepared so as to show how the developer is proposing to avoid, reduce and limit any negative impacts on such species.

Planning applications which possible affect reptiles are reviewed and assessed by the authorities, as there are a number of reptiles, which are European, protected species. Moreover, UK law protects them too. Some of these reptiles include adders, grass snakes, common lizards and slow worms.

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A landscape architect will be able to assist you as a developer in this regard. If you think that the development may be in a site that is a suitable habitat for reptiles, then there is a high probability that there are reptiles in that area. A landscape architect will decide which type of survey to conduct. Apart from searching for basking animals, this commonly includes placing roofing felt or carpet tiles into the vegetation, and laying out artificial refuges. Reptile surveys are best carried out in the months of April, May and September. Spring is the best time of year to survey for reptiles as this is when they are most active and visible. It is also important to choose suitable conditions, with regards to the time of day and the type of weather.

Sometimes artificial refugia will need to be laid so as to improve the survey results.

Following these visits and searches, the landscape architect will then work on the assessment of the impacts the proposed development could have. The most preoccupying impacts in these cases include a reduction in the quality of the habitat due to the effect of increased litter, a separation in the hibernation sites, and the chance of losing links between habitats.

Based on this assessment of the impacts, the landscape architect will then proceed to address possible avoidance and mitigation methods. This could include measures such as:

  • Changing the layout of the development.
  • Displacing the reptiles from the area by changing the vegetation.
  • Trans-locating the reptiles to another area, which has been prepared specifically.
  • Creating a new habitat or links to other habitats.
  • Temporary fencing.

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Reptiles are often encountered on development sites. They are given what is referred to as a partial protection under UK law and if one is found guilty of injuring or killing them deliberately, it is a criminal offense. The habitats of common reptiles are not protected per se, but developers are generally obliged to replace that habitat if it is going to be lose due to the development. In such cases it is not that easy to capture and transfer the reptiles off-site so as to take them to the pre-prepared receptor site. It is recommended to introduce small numbers of reptiles to areas where there is an existing population. It is also important to allow enough time for such new habitats to become suitable for the reptiles, and this needs to be seen to before actually capturing them and moving them there. Capture methods include making use of artificial refuges or gradually reducing the suitable habitat area so as to make the reptiles concentrate in a smaller area which will make it easier for capturing them. Certain licenses are required, and thus it is important to request professional assistance for such matters so as to ensure that you are abiding with the laws. A landscape architecture firm will have trained professionals who will be able to conduct the reptile surveys as well as design mitigation plans accordingly.

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