With some variation between species, all six species of reptile native to the UK prefer undisturbed habitats with open areas for basking and more vegetated areas for shelter and foraging. The ‘widespread’ reptiles i.e. common lizard, slow worm, grass snake and adder, can be found in a variety of habitats including urban areas, near woodland, along railway embankments, and even on construction sites where there has been a lapse between clearance and development. The sand lizard and smooth snake have more specific habitat requirements and a limited range. Reptiles generally hibernate between October and March, and are therefore only dependably active from April to September (inclusive).
For sites that are considered to have potential to support reptiles, the ‘likely absence’ of reptiles can only be robustly established by means of a survey. Reptile surveys should be undertaken between the months of April to September (ideally during April, May and/or September), and consist of an initial site visit to identify areas of suitable reptile habitat followed by the deployment of artificial cover objects in these areas. The artificial cover objects are usually left undisturbed for a few weeks, before being checked for a minimum of seven survey visits for the possible presence of sheltering or basking reptiles. Where the presence of reptiles has been confirmed, additional survey visits are usually required to establish the size of the population concerned.
Avoidance measures built into the development proposals may remove the need for detailed survey work, or reduce the amount of survey work required. However, there must still be sufficient information gathered to understand the nature of the proposed impacts and the likely effect on the species concerned. In some instances an appraisal of the site may provide sufficient information to make an assessment of the likely impacts resulting from the development and on which to base appropriate avoidance measures to be incorporated into the development. However, where potential adverse impacts are considered unavoidable, a reptile survey is likely to be required.
All six species of reptile native to the UK are protected against intentional killing, injury or sale under Schedule 5, Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. 2.2 The sand lizard and smooth snake are afforded a higher degree of protection under European law, which, amongst other things, makes it an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct their places of shelter or disturb those species in such a place.
Reptiles and development
If the proposed development works are considered likely to disturb or harm reptiles, a reptile mitigation strategy may be required in order to protect them from injury or killing. CES are able to guide you through the mitigation process, and carry out any necessary mitigation measures such as the capture and translocation of reptiles, creation of replacement habitat, etc. CES ecologists are experienced in reptile survey and mitigation, and have a proven track record of carrying out reptile surveys and designing and implementing mitigation schemes for projects of all sizes.
Please contact us to discuss your specific project or to request a quotation for conducting a reptile survey and providing you with a report to support your planning application.