Natural England reforms wildlife licensing

13th December 2016

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Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Planning ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity


Hannah Greening

Developers, planners and ecologists will have more flexibility in how they deal with species protected by European legislation that are found on development sites after conservation regulator Natural England confirmed changes to its licensing process.

The organisation said that the changes, which it consulted on earlier this year, would save developers time and money when species such as great crested newts, dormice, bats and water voles were found on land they want to develop, while also increasing investment in improvements to wildlife habitats.

The current licensing approach focuses on individual species at locations where there is little chance of them thriving in the long term, Natural England said. It can also result in applicants spending considerable time and money surveying and moving small numbers of animals, causing frustration for developers with little or no benefit for the conservation of the animal.

The four new policies are designed to encourage planners and conservationists to adopt the wider, landscape scale approach recommended by an independent review commissioned by the environment department (Defra) in 2010. Changes to the licensing process include:

  • Developers no longer need to relocate or exclude species from a site if there is programme in place to enhance or create sufficient habitat.
  • Developers will be allowed to create new habitat away from the development site if it provides greater benefit. Currently, species are relocated to habitats within the boundary of the development site or on adjacent land.
  • Species will have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date, typically brownfield and mineral working sites. Currently, developers tend to prevent protected species accessing such habitats in case their presence causes further delays.
  • Where the impacts of the development on species can be predicted confidently, developers will be scale back on surveys and rely more on the judgment of ecologists.

The changes have been approved by ministers at Defra. Natural England stressed that conventional methods could still be used if they were more suitable than the new approach.


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