European Water Vole by Rabensteiner via Wikimedia Commons

To book your Water Vole Survey

Call Midland Ecology

07854473385

or email info@midlandecology.co.uk

For fast, friendly and affordable service

Water voles (Arvicola amphibious), their breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.

In most cases, you should be able to avoid harming water voles by adjusting your planned work. If you can’t avoid disturbing them or damaging their habitats, will require a licence from Natural England. If you need to apply for planning permission, your planning authority should check you’re taking the right steps to avoid harming them.

You may be required to undertake surveys for water voles if there is a risk that your development may present harm to them or destroy their habitat. Water voles are found throughout England in areas with vegetation on the banks of slow-flowing rivers, ditches, dykes, lakes, ponds, marshes or bogs, canals and reedbeds.

Your local planning authority should advise you, or your architect, that a Preliminary Ecological Assessment, Extended Phase I Habitat Survey or Water Vole Survey is necessary.

The water vole was once widespread throughout England, but the last century has seen sharp declines in populations due to a combination of loss and fragmentation of bankside vegetation, altered riparian management and the introduction and spread of the mink, an effective predator of water voles. For these reasons both the water vole and its habitat are legally protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

It is illegal to:

- intentionally capture, kill or injure water voles

- damage, destroy or block access to their places of shelter or protection (on purpose or by not taking enough care)

- disturb them in a place of shelter or protection (on purpose or by not taking enough care)

- possess, sell, control or transport live or dead water voles or parts of them (not water voles bred in captivity)

If you carry out work affecting water voles, their breeding sites and resting places without a license you will be breaking the law.

Penalties on conviction include:

- A maximum fine of £5,000

- Up to six months in prison

for each offence.

In order to conduct your Water Vole Survey, Midland Ecology will require the following information:

- Your/your client’s name and contact details (e-mail address and telephone number)

- The full site address

- Access to the site and any watercourses running along the site boundaries. Please ensure any alarm/lock codes/keys are sent to us in advance.

- A copy of your Preliminary Ecological Assessment or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey if you’ve previously had another ecologist carry one out.

- Full site plan (current condition in PDF format).

- Your development proposals (in PDF format).

A Water Vole Survey takes place during daylight hours and can be conducted at any time of year, with the optimal survey period being between April and October as water voles are less active above ground in winter.

If your development is likely to have large impacts on a suitable waterway, is a particularly large site or if the initial survey cannot conclusively rule out recent water vole activity, repeat visits in order to establish changing activity patterns may be required.

Click here to view our survey calendar

Assuming visibility is not affected, this type of survey can be conducted in any weather.

The aim of the survey is to establish the current status of water voles in the area, suitable food resources and habitat requirements, to assess the impact of the development in relation to water voles.

A desk based study will establish waterways in the immediate vicinity of the site using MAGIC and aerial images from Google Earth and a search of the National Biodiversity Network will ascertain whether any records of water voles exist for the area.

A surveyor will examine the site itself and any waterways and pond banks in the immediate vicinity for at least 2 metres from the water’s edge (where access can be gained) looking for signs of water voles such as faeces, latrines, feeding stations, burrows, footprints and runs or pathways.

It is not necessary for you to be present during the survey as long as there is open access to all of the land in need of surveying, including the site itself and waterways in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development area boundary. Please ensure any alarm/lock codes/keys are sent to us in advance.

Midland Ecology includes as standard a scoping Water Vole Survey as part of a Preliminary Ecological Assessment or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey. Assuming access can be gained to any waterways in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development area boundary on the same visit, no further cost will be charged.

The cost of a Water Vole Survey is determined by size of the site and the number of waterways to be surveyed. Our fee includes the desk study, site visit* and the production of a report, with associated costs (e.g. mileage*, expenses) all included. Call us on 07854473385 or e-mail us for a more detailed quote.

Unless these have already been obtained as part of a recent survey on the site, biological records data will also be required. This is provided by your local biological records centre, who will charge their own fee. We will contact them for a quote on your behalf.

*If your development is likely to have large impacts on a suitable waterway, is a particularly large site or if the initial survey cannot conclusively rule out recent water vole activity, repeat visits in order to establish changing activity patterns may be required. Your surveyor will discuss this with you and agree any further costs before undertaking the work.

Midland Ecology aims to have your finished report with you within 10 days of completing the final day of surveying.

Depending on your local records centre, Biological Records Data (BRD) can delay the final version of your report. We will request a probable timescale when obtaining your quote, and advise you immediately of any likely delays.

If water voles, their breeding sites and resting places, and evidence of their activity are all absent from the site, then this type of survey will usually provide adequate evidence to satisfy your local planning authority that your proposed development poses no risk to water voles.

If your development is likely to have large impacts on a suitable waterway, is a particularly large site or if the initial survey cannot conclusively rule out recent water vole activity, repeat visits in order to establish changing activity patterns may be required.

If water voles are found, or if the survey cannot conclusively rule out recent water vole activity, there is no need to panic – it does not usually mean that your development can’t go ahead, in fact it is very rare that a development will need to stop altogether. A European Protected Species (EPS) development license issued by Natural England (NE) will be required prior to any works taking place and you may need to adapt your plans slightly to compensate and mitigate for the water voles. Midland Ecology can work with you to obtain this development license and design a mitigation and compensation strategy to be implemented with Natural England and the Local Planning Authority.