Water voles and their burrows are fully protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
Implications for Development
Water voles should be considered for any development affecting watercourses or water-bodies. Activities such as bridge construction, filling in ditches, re-routing streams, pollution or outfall pipes are planned.
Water vole surveys involve a desk study, habitat assessment and two field survey visits that are spaced at least two months apart. One visit must occur between mid-April and June, and the other between July and September. However, there are situations in which only a single visit may be required.
Mitigation & Compensation
Impact on water voles can often be avoided by precautionary working methods, and by protecting and enhancing a vegetated buffer zone between the development and the watercourse both during and post-development.
Relocation of water voles will require a licence, which must deliver a net benefit to the species. This can be achieved either through displacement or trapping methods. Displacement of water voles is potentially useful for small-scale works where the working area is a maximum of 50m long, the works are timed between 15th February and 15th April, and where sufficient alternative habitat exists.
Displacement that meets these criteria is possible under a Class Licence by a registered person, whereas displacement under other circumstances requires a Project Licence. Any trapping should be conducted in early spring (1st March – 15th April) or as a last resort, in autumn (15th September – 30th November) - although this is weather dependent.