As you all know, a range of species in England are protected by law; sometimes this is in the form of national Acts of Parliament and other times European Union wide regulations. Either way, dealing with them and advising upon them is the remit of Natural England (NE). One of NE’s roles is to regulate licenses for the purposes of development that will mitigate and reduce the impact on protected species such as the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus), the badger (Meles meles), the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) and bats (of the Chiroptera order). Though the badger is protected only by The Protection of Badgers Act of 1992 which does not have a European equivalent as this Act relates only to preventing blood-sport rather than conservation measures, the great crested newt and bats are covered by The Conservation Regulations of 1994, an EU wide piece of legislation; the new licensing system relates only to European Protected Species (EPS).
Development Mitigation Measures
For a development to remain legal, it has to put in place measures to mitigate for its impact on these species and this usually entails relocating them to a suitable location; each development requires a license for this as well as a licensed ecologist to carry out the work. To get this license, an application is required by NE and when additional information is needed this is requested via a Further Information Request (FIR). The downside of these requests is that they are required even for minor adjustments and that they take time (and time equals money!); last year this system was changed by NE for developments applying for great crested newt licenses to incorporate ‘annex’ licensing.
What Are ‘Annex’ Licenses?
The annex licensing system means that for any additionally required minor information and adjustments of license applications the wildlife advisors of NE can simply phone or email the developer or contracted ecologist (or any third party named by the developer or contracted ecologist); this cuts out the need for many FIR’s and in an 11 month period last year the need for 160 FIR’s for great crested newt applications was avoided. However, poor quality license applications still require the more formal FIR route as the additional information required is likely substantial.
But What About Bats?
As bats are covered under annexes II and IV of The Conservation Regulations of 1994, the changes to EPS licensing are set to apply to them this year. As there are 18 bat species in the UK, the greatest volume of FIR’s are generated by bat license applications, so the annex system should speed up the process. The new annex system was implemented for bats at the end of March 2014 and after the 1st of May 2014 the previous licensing system will become redundant; applications that use the former system will be returned to the sender. As of May 2014 this change will also apply to the hazel dormouse which is protected under appendix III of the Bonn Convention.