There are six species of reptile native to the UK; adders, slow worms, grass snakes, smooth snakes, sand lizards and common lizards. Adders, slow worms, grass snakes and common lizards can be found all over the UK and as such are often referred to as “common species”. Sand lizards are mostly found in Southern Britain and smooth snakes are restricted to Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey. Common species of reptile are partially protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), under which it is an offence to intentionally kill or injure a reptile. This act along site the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 protects the rarest reptile species in the UK, smooth snake and sand lizard, under which it is an offence to possess, handle, capture animals or to destroy, damage or obstruct access to places they use for shelter or breeding.All species of common reptile are UK BAP species and are a material consideration in respect to planning issues. This year is the International Year of Biodiversity, and Natural England has recently featured the sand lizard, which is one of the rarest lizard in the UK due to its restricted distribution.
Suitable reptile habitat includes grasslands, woodland edges, brownfield sites, heaths, dunes, moors, meadows, woodland glades, urban fringes and residential gardens. Suitable refuge and hibernation habitats for reptiles include log piles, woodland and hedgerows. Ecosulis has undertaken reptile presence/absence surveys on a number of different sites including agricultural land, brownfield sites and greenfield sites.
Planning must incorporate two aims where reptiles are present, as detailed within the Reptile Habitat Management Handbook(2010):
Ecosulis has over 20 years of experience in reptile surveys and mitigation. Reptile surveys should be undertaken in April, May and September, but can be undertaken between March and October during suitable weather conditions. Reptiles hibernate between November and March, therefore vegetation clearance of suitable hibernation sites should not be undertaken during this period. The majority of development sites retain their reptile populations on site during development works by allocating an area of suitable habitat and maintaining a wildlife area during the works or undertaking works under a precautionary approach. Some sites require relocation/translocation exercises to be undertaken to move the reptile population to a suitable receptor site. Ecosulis has recently been working closely with a planning authority to assess three potential reptile receptor sites for a development site in Reading. The sites have been assessed for their suitability to support a grass snake, slow worm and common lizard population using a scoring matrix to quantitatively assess their habitat suitability and additional assessment criteria, such as their location, land use and long-term security.
- To protect reptiles from any harm that might arise during the development work;
- To ensure that sufficient quality, quantity and connectivity of habitat is provided to accommodate the reptile population, either on-site or at an alternative site, with no net loss of local reptile conservation status.
Ecosulis has also recorded reptile translocation success on one site in Bristol. In 2009, Ecosulis undertook works with Bristol City Council to select a suitable reptile receptor site in Bristol to accommodate slow worms from a residential development. Habitat enhancements were undertaken by Ecosulis’ Countryside Management team followed by a translocation exercise, also undertaken by the team. Monitoring works in 2010 confirmed that the management plan informed by Ecosulis is being well implemented and that slow worms are currently breeding on the receptor site. Ecosulis is currently undertaking long-term receptor site monitoring on an additional five sites.
Ecosulis’ consultancy team have experience in undertaking habitat searches, advising on incorporating reptiles within development Masterplans, designing hibernacula, and advising on beneficial planting and management plans. Ecosulis’ Countryside Management team have experience in erecting temporary and permanent reptile fencing, reptile relocation, habitat enhancements including installation of hibernacula and planting, and management.
Ecosulis has extensive experience in planning and undertaking reptile surveys, translocation exercises and informing mitigation strategies for planning purposes. More information can be found at: http://www.ecosulis.co.uk/page/reptiles