Common Lizard on ecologist's gloved hand

To discuss how we can assist you in your European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) application

Call Midland Ecology

0121 517 0841

or email

For fast, friendly and affordable service

For European Protected Species, mitigation often needs to be formalised within the context of a Development Licence, giving the applicant permission to disturb or otherwise affect a protected species, activity that would be illegal without such a Licence. For sites where planning permission is required, this stage of the process comes after full planning consent has been granted, and will be listed as a condition of your planning consent.

Licence applications for a development should be regarded as the last available option where all other reasonable alternative ways of avoiding or minimising impacts on the protected species have been discounted and the action is nonetheless likely to result in an offence or offences under the species protection provisions of the Regulations. Developments requiring an EPS licence include, but are not limited to:

- those required to preserve public health or public safety;

- building, engineering, mining or other operations, on, over, or under land, e.g. construction of new roads, schools, hospitals, business parks, housing estates, pipelines and mineral extraction;

- the material change in use of any buildings or other land e.g. barn conversions, small local housing schemes, conversion of redundant buildings and local infrastructure such as drainage schemes;

- the demolition of buildings, rebuilding, structural alterations of, or additions to, buildings and maintenance and repairs to structures, e.g. loft extensions, repairs/maintenance to buildings including dwelling houses, boreholes, archaeological investigations and the felling of unsafe urban trees.

A licence is needed if the ecologist, on the basis of survey information and specialist knowledge of the species concerned, considers that on balance the proposed activity is reasonably likely to result in an offence, however the ultimate decision on whether to apply for a licence or not rests with you, as the person responsible for commissioning the proposed activity. For sites where planning permission is required, this stage of the process comes after full planning consent has been granted, and will be listed as a condition of your planning consent.

Usually the landowner or occupier, i.e. the person commissioning the proposed activity, will submit the application directly to Natural England, although you may appoint agents to produce the application pack and act on your behalf. It is a requirement of the licence that a person with specific skills and knowledge of the species concerned, such as a consultant ecologist, must be appointed to assist in the preparation and the delivery of the mitigation proposals that ensure the species protection requirements can be met.

If you carry out work affecting EPS or their habitats without a licence you will be breaking the law.

Penalties on conviction include:

- A maximum fine of £5,000 per offence or per individual animal

- Up to six months in prison

The land you are applying for a development licence for must belong to you and all necessary consents must be obtained before the licence will be granted. Therefore, if you need to apply for planning permission, you should get it before applying for a licence. Natural England will be unable to process an application if the development location/boundaries, timescales, funding or land ownership are unclear.

Adequate ecological surveys will need to have been carried out, at the right time of year, to determine if EPS are present and if so, how they are using the habitats and in what numbers. The ecologist conducting these surveys will advise you on the likelihood of the proposed activity resulting in a breach of the legislation and how to take avoidance measures. If these surveys were not carried out by Midland Ecology, we would need a copy of the reports for all surveys undertaken.

Your development must meet the following three conditions, referred to by Natural England as the three tests:

1. Your development will “preserve public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of overriding public interest including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment”. Examples include developments which

- are required to maintain the nation’s health, safety, education, environment e.g. sustainable development, green energy, green transport

- comply with planning policies and guidance at a national, regional and local level

- are required for economic or social development e.g. Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, employment, regeneration, mineral extraction, housing, pipelines

2. There is no satisfactory alternative.

Your application must demonstrate that alternatives have been considered, explain what those alternatives were, and provide a justification for the decisions to select your preferred option, discounting the others as satisfactory. This includes consideration of the ‘do nothing’ scenario. A proportionate approach is adopted in considering the feasibility of alternative solutions relative to the degree of likely impact. The greater the impact of the proposal on the species, the more evidence must be provided that there is no satisfactory alternative.

3. The action authorised by the licence will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range.

Your licence application must demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to minimise the impacts of a development on EPS, e.g alternative timing of actions, development designs and layouts, and sites.

In order to obtain a licence to allow for the capture of EPS, damage or destruction of breeding sites, etc, together we must demonstrate that the damage will be adequately compensated for. Current Natural England advice is that there should be no net loss in the local population status of the species concerned, taking into account factors such as population size, viability and connectivity. Hence, when it is unavoidable that an activity will affect an EPS population, the mitigation should aim to maintain a population of equivalent status on or near the original site.

The application must cover why it is not possible to avoid the requirement for a licence by doing the work at another time or avoiding the area occupied by the EPS. This might include evidence that to delay the development will put in jeopardy the funding for a project which meets the criteria of test 1 above, that costs or the logistics involved in avoiding the EPS will make the project unviable and therefore not meet the need as proved by test 1 above.

A licence application is a detailed document which must pull information from various sources. Every development has different considerations and therefore each licence application is different. When you initially call Midland Ecology to discuss your application, we will ask you for some information so that we can advise timescales for your individual development. Natural England state that a licensing decision will be made within 30 working days of receiving your application, providing further information is not required.

Natural England do not make a charge for the licence itself. Every development has different considerations and therefore each licence application is different. Call us on 0121 517 0841 or e-mail us to discuss your development and the licence requirements. We will then provide a detailed quote, with no hidden costs, for both our assistance in the licence application procedure and the implementation of the mitigation outlined in the licence application.

Natural England will issue the mitigation licence in your name, as the applicant (who is thereafter referred to as the licensee). It will also name the ecological consultant at Midland Ecology working on behalf of you, the licensee. All mitigation licences will name the relevant species, the permitted actions and where appropriate the maximum numbers to be affected.

The licence will also contain a standard set of conditions, including a condition explaining that anyone authorised to carry out activities under the licence who fails to comply with the conditions will be committing an offence.

We will need to wait until Natural England have granted a licence before any mitigation and/or compensation work or development can begin. Occasionally Natural England may contact you if they require further information to support the proposal. Once the licence has been granted, we can look at starting any required mitigation and/or compensation and draw up a timetable for the proposed works.