Natural England is consulting on possible changes to the handling of European protected species (EPS) licensing, aiming to achieve better outcomes for species and reduce costs, delays and uncertainty for developers.
The proposals shift the focus away from protecting individual animals on development sites and towards improving populations in the wider local area; offer flexibility in the location of compensatory habitat provision; allow EPS access to temporary habitats such as mineral workings and brownfield sites; and allow reduced survey effort in appropriate circumstances.
Four proposed changes are set out:
Greater flexibility on decisions to exclude or relocate EPS from development sites. This shifts the focus away from protecting the individual animals actually present on a site towards opportunities to create better habitats elsewhere to benefit the wider population. This could reduce costs associated with excluding and relocating animals from development sites, with more investment in providing compensatory habitat. Projects could benefit from fewer delays waiting for the right season.
Greater flexibility on the location of newly created habitats that compensate for habitats that will be lost. Individual animals usually have to be relocated to habitats within the development site, or on adjacent land which can be a difficult task. An amended approach would permit the use of suitable compensatory habitat further away and disconnected from the development where there would be additional benefit to the local EPS population.
Allow EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date. Intended to apply to land that has previously been developed (i.e. brownfield land), land which is awaiting development, and land that is subject to ongoing but intermittent or phased development such as mineral working, this would allow temporary habitats to be used by EPS for a period of time without attracting the need for full compensation or mitigation measures when the land is subsequently developed.
Amend the level of surveys required where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted. Surveying EPS can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming. Where the impacts of development on EPS can be predicted confidently, the effort and money spent on confirmatory surveys might be better spent on a precautionary level of mitigation and compensation to achieve a better outcome for the wider population of the species.
The Avian Ecology team has always advocated a pragmatic approach. Our role is to facilitate progressive development whilst balancing legislative requirements and protected species populations, so we welcome any positive moves towards a system which allows development and our rarest wildlife to co-exist whilst minimizing bureaucracy. Speak to our EPS team to understand more about the implications of these changes to your future developments: Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org. T:0843 5065116.
The consultation closes on 7 April and the full Consultation Document is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/504824/eps-consultation-document.pdf
To respond online http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/eps-consultation/