Widespread species of reptile (adder, common lizard, slow worm and grass snake) are protected from killing and injury by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (WCA). The smooth snake and sand lizard along with their resting and breeding places are fully protected by the WCA and the Conservation of Habitats & Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. However, these two species are rare and have a restricted distribution in the UK, and are therefore unlikely to constrain a development.
All reptile species are listed under Section 41 of the NERC Act (2006) as Species of Principle Importance. Although reptile habitat is not legally protected, retention / creation of suitable reptile habitat with developments is a material consideration in the planning process.
Implications for Development
Reptiles may be a consideration for development sites that comprise rough grassland, hedge banks, arable field margins, woodland, allotments and waste-ground.
Reptile presence / absence surveys are possible between mid-March and September / October. These require seven visits and take c. 4-6 weeks to complete. The survey involves use of artificial refuges to ascertain whether reptiles use a site. Planning Authorities occasionally require more survey visits to determine the population size if reptiles are found to be present.
Mitigation & Compensation
If impacts to reptiles cannot be avoided, mitigation for the four widespread species can be implemented without a licence. However, for planning applications, a Mitigation / Method Statement should be prior agreed with the Planning Authority. Mitigation should be designed to protect and preserve reptiles species at their local conservation status.
The mitigation hierarchy where reptiles are present:
1. Maintain the reptiles in situ within the development.
2. Re-locate reptiles to suitable habitat within the development.
3. Translocate reptiles off-site to land that is protected from future development. Reptile surveys may be required to assess the suitability of an off-site receptor area. Habitat enhancements / creation may be needed to improve its reptile carrying capacity.