Argus Ecology

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Protected species

The effect of developments on protected species needs to be taken seriously now, as never before. Recent government policy guidance and case law has strengthened the status of protected species in the planning system, and emphasised their potential to delay, modify or block a development proposal. Early advice from experienced ecologists, who have seen projects through from start to finish, is therefore strongly recommended – current policies and practice with regard to matters such as licensing frequently change.

The 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act established the current protection framework in the UK, while the 1994 Habitats Regulations provides the legal basis in UK law for European protected species. Further legislation, such as the 2000 Countryside and Rights of Way Act and the 2004 Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act strengthened the level of domestic legal protection, while amendments to the 1981 Act have increased protection for species such as water vole. Consideration of a wider range of priority species in planning policy decisions has also been formalised through the 2006 Natural Resources and Rural Communities Act in England and Wales, and the 2004 Nature Conservation Act in Scotland.

In our experience, the species most frequently encountered in development situations are bats, great crested newt and badger, while water voles and otter may need consideration where wetlands or watercourses are in close proximity. However, we have also been involved in situations where a range of other protected species required consideration, including:

  • White-clawed crayfish
  • Freshwater pearl mussel
  • Alpine woundwort and balm-leaved figwort (protected plant species)
  • Barn owl
  • Kingfisher
  • Little ringed plover
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Lamprey species.

In addition, it should be remembered that all bird species, their nests, eggs and young are protected (pest species are exempted by a ‘general licence’ covering specific circumstances, which doesn’t include most development situations).

The level of protection, and the procedures for dealing with protected species vary – bats, water vole and badger for example, are all protected under different legislation. More details are available on our services relating to bats, great crested newt and water vole.