This month’s post takes a closer look at reptile surveys in relation to development. Reptile surveys are often required as part of the planning process and as with all things ecological, it’s best to undertake initial scoping surveys (Preliminary Ecological Appraisal) for this species early in the development of a scheme. For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on the more commonly found reptile species: grass snake, common lizard, adder and slow worm.

Why are reptile surveys required?

All six reptile species in the UK are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended). This protects the four common species – grass snake, slow worm adder  and common lizard – against deliberate or reckless killing or injury. (The smooth snake and sand lizard receive additional protection as European protected species.) Therefore, it is important to consider the potential presence of reptiles on site and within the zone of influence of a proposed development.

Reptile survey methodology

Surveys include setting out ‘artificial refuges’, such as corrugated metal sheets or felt roof mats that absorb heat and attract reptiles to hide underneath or bask on top. The standard approach to reptile presence/absence surveys requires a minimum of eight survey visits; first to set out artificial refuges, followed by seven visits to check them.

The information obtained from the surveys feeds into a report that assesses the impacts and effects of proposed works on reptiles and determines the need for mitigation and compensation.

The peak months for surveying are April–June and September. It’s also possible to survey for reptiles in the spring/summer months around this optimum period, if weather conditions are favourable.

What happens if reptiles are found to be present on site?

This very much depends on how reptiles are using the site in combination with the development proposals. But broadly speaking, the optimal solution is to avoid any impacts to reptiles in the first instance; if this is not possible, an experienced ecologist will advise on the suitable options to ensure that legislation and best practice is not contravened. This may involve capturing and translocating reptiles to a designated receptor site.

Our ecologists are experienced in undertaking surveys for reptiles. They are also able to advise on the appropriate course of action if reptiles are found to be present on your site and can guide you through the translocation process if required.

How long are reptile surveys valid for?

Each site and circumstance is different and so it can be difficult to generalise about the lifespan of a survey and report. However, broadly speaking, surveys and reports that are less than twelve-months old are generally considered to be valid. Those between twelve and eighteen months old are also generally considered to be valid, unless there are new features present on site that reptiles could make use of, or where site conditions have changed significantly. If a survey is over eighteen months old an update is required.

If you would like to discuss your development project with one of our ecologists, please do get in touch.