Wildlife Surveys

Image of a Natterer's bat flying inside a church.

Protected Species
Protected Species in the UK include any plant or animal, terrestrial or aquatic, that is protected by legislation (e.g., WCA 1981, PBA 1992). Natural England provide standing advice on those species most likely to be affected by development, and several species-specific groups and charities also provide guidance on survey standards.

In some cases, a Natural England licence may be required to allow the development to proceed lawfully, utilising mitigation (prevention and reduction) and compensation (creation and enhancement) measures to ensure the preserved Continued Ecological Functionality of a population.

Bernwood Ecology can apply for and act as the Named Ecologists on European Protected Species Licences (EPSLs, also called derogation or development licenses) and can undertake subsequent licensing work, including act as an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW), on the behalf of the client for bats, great crested newts, and badgers.

Where required, full planning consent must be secured prior to submitting a licence application. In determining a planning application where a protected species is present, planning authorities are required to consider three ‘tests’:
1. No satisfactory alternative
2. Imperative reasons of overriding public interest
3. Favourable Conservation Status

Planning permission can be refused where one or more of these three tests is not met. A protected species report including a statement of support of the three tests can be prepared by Bernwood Ecology to accompany your planning application.

Not every development will require a Natural England licence; Bernwood Ecology offers bespoke consultation on a site-by-site basis. Get in touch to discuss your project’s particular requirements.

Bernwood Ecology is experienced at undertaking badger surveys and will provide you with an impact assessment and conservation recommendations to assist with your development planning. Sett destruction, exclusion and artificial sett creation may be required.

Where disturbance of badgers or their setts is likely, even where a sett may fall within 30m outside of the site boundary, a survey and impact assessment will be required. Badger surveys can be undertaken at any time of year, although winter surveys can be more effective as vegetation cover is reduced. A survey using bait-marking would establish the territorial boundary of a family group of badgers and the distribution and status of all the local setts.

A Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) of structures is typically undertaken first to look for evidence of use of the structure by bats, and to assess bat roosting suitability and potential bat access points. If the habitat is suitable or if evidence of use is found, emergence/re-entry surveys and an impact assessment may be required. Emergence/re-entry surveys are seasonally constrained, so it is best to plan surveys in advance to avoid delays to your development project.

If a bat survey and impact assessment show that a development will affect bats, it may be necessary to obtain a European Protected Species licence or to register the site under the Bat Mitigation Class Licensing (CL35) scheme from Natural England, providing our clients an alternative to the conventional licensing method when dealing with unavoidable impacts on a bat roost of low conservation significance, before the work can commence.

Bernwood Ecology can advise churches on coexisting with bats under the Bats in Churches Class Licence (CL32), where careful consideration of both church and bat interest has led to inspired solutions with our clients.

In addition to PRAs and emergence/re-entry surveys, our staff are fully licenced and experienced in Preliminary Ground-Level Tree Roost Assessments (PGLTRA), transect surveys, Advanced Bat Survey Techniques (ABSTs) such as harp-trapping and mist-netting, static monitoring, and other remote bat monitoring surveys including environmental monitoring and laser-break beam activity surveys. Our surveys are supported with advanced technology such as full-spectrum bat detectors, and both infrared and thermal imaging cameras.

Bernwood Ecology also undertakes a number of research projects to identify day roosts and foraging areas, through tagging and tracking methods.

If breeding birds are known or suspected on a site, a survey and mitigation strategy may be required. Bernwood Ecology can offer site surveys in advance of works commencing to identify habitat with potential to host breeding birds and recommend mitigation measures to prevent delays to your development project.

In addition, Bernwood Ecology can offer winter and breeding bird surveys to support Agricultural Environment Schemes and long-term monitoring. We have many years’ experience of providing bespoke recommendations on habitat creation and enhancement for birds.

Great crested newts
Where development may affect great crested newts or their habitats, a survey and impact assessment may be required. Surveys are typically carried out March – June; scheduling surveys in advance can avoid delays to your development project. Bernwood Ecology can undertake presence/absence and population estimate surveys using field survey techniques such as bottle-trapping, torching, egg searching, and netting.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys may also offer a cost-effective survey tool for a project when seeking to establish presence or absence of a population within a pond or aquatic environment. If a survey and impact assessment demonstrate the development is likely to affect great crested newts, a European Protected Species Licence from Natural England may be required to allow works to proceed.

Alternatively, you may wish to enrol in the District-Level Licencing scheme (where available), where conservation payment(s) could release the need for a site survey. For all these options, Bernwood Ecology has the experience, competencies and qualifications, to advise you on your project needs.

Bernwood Ecology is experienced carrying out field sign and motion camera surveys of otter populations in the local area. Where development or fishery management may affect otters or their habitat, a survey and impact assessment may be required. An initial assessment to determine the suitability of sites for otters is usually undertaken to search for field signs and to identify the location of holts and resting areas. If otters are determined likely to be impacted by a development or fisheries management, a European Protected Species licence may be required.

The UK has six native reptile species: grass snakes, adders, common lizards, slow-worms, and the rarer smooth snakes and sand lizards. Works that may result in the killing or injury of reptiles, or disturbance in the case of sand lizards, smooth snakes or their habitats, will require a survey to identify their presence and establish development impacts.

Bernwood Ecology can undertake surveys (March – October) for the more widespread species (grass snakes, adders, common lizards, and slow-worms) and provide a bespoke report detailing the findings, in addition to an impact assessment and conservation recommendations.

Water voles
Bernwood Ecology can undertake a water vole presence/absence survey and provide recommendations to ensure impacts can be avoided or disturbance and damage minimised. It is not possible to obtain a licence to carry out development affecting water voles, except to translocate them for conservation purposes where no other option to accommodate water voles on the site is available.

Other Species Services
Bernwood Ecology works closely with one of the UK’s top entomological consultants, Dr. Mark Telfer, on sites of historic importance where the age of the property often offers important habitats for invertebrates, including saproxylic (deadwood) insects. Undertaking an invertebrate survey improves the understanding of the ecology of a site, allowing us to provide a holistic assessment of biodiversity on your land.