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Natural England Licensing: Frequently Asked Questions

The following are the questions we at ECOSA are most often asked by our clients on the subject of obtaining protected species licences.

For a more complete summary of the process of obtaining a licence we have also posted an overview of the Natural England licensing or you can find more detail in Natural England's own publication.

Why do I need a licence?

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 makes any, deliberate or inadvertent, impact on one of the listed protected species of animal or plant (or their habitats) an offence under EU and UK law. The penalties include fines and imprisonment.

It is your responsibility to have the probability of your activities impacting European Protected Species (EPS) assessed professionally and, if they are likely to be affected, you will need a licence awarded by Natural England to give you exception to the law.

How much does it cost?

As of 1st April 2019 Natural England are undertaking a phased implementation of charges for licensing services. Depending on the species and the nature of the project, Natural England will adhere to a set of charging criteria and a pricing structure involving a fixed fee and variable rates to determine the licence application.

There are also a number of licence charge exemptions in place which may or may not apply to your project; it is therefore important to discuss the nature of your project with a professional ecologist who will be able to guide you through the licensing process.

You will also need to budget for a professional ecologist's time including:

  • A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), based on extended Phase 1 habitat survey data, to identify whether any EPS are present or are likely to be present or absent. This initial survey and assessment allows for an estimation of any further ecological survey works required. If the survey indicates a likely absence of EPS, no further surveys or licence will be required.
  • Subsequent more detailed protected species surveys to confirm and assess the extent of EPS presence and their status on site. The surveys required to assess status vary by species: a building that has suitability to support roosting bats might require up to three survey visits using a number of surveyors within the active survey season to assess a bat population; but an assessment for hazel dormouse has to be conducted over several months.
  • The preparation and review of a Natural England EPSM licence application or Natural England Bat Mitigation Class Licence (BMCL) application, and subsequent submission to Natural England for determination.
  • Any mitigation works as recommended in the licence application and stipulated as conditions of the licence granted, which can vary greatly. They will depend on the site, populations and species concerned, varying from the erection of a bat box to landscape-scale habitat development. Annual monitoring of the mitigation may be a condition of a licence.

How long does it take?

Depending on the species, surveys need to be carried out over an appropriate period of time in order to adequately assess the site importance.

Natural England aim to issue a decision within 30 working days upon receipt of the application.

What does the licence allow me to do?

The licence will permit those works set out in the application such as demolition, provided all conditions are met. Conditions will typically include the training of on-site personnel / contractors (e.g. toolbox talks for roofers); the demolition and landscaping processes to be used; the phasing of work across the site; EPS removal by a licenced individual; and specific habitat enhancement or creation within the immediate area.

How long does the licence last?

The licence will last for the duration of the development works plus the post-development monitoring period, if applicable. If the project start is delayed or works take longer than described in the application, an amendment to the licence will need to be obtained from Natural England. This does not generally require additional survey work.

What do I have to do?

Once you have contracted ECOSA as your ecological consultant we will guide you through the process, beginning with an initial site assessment, and planning in further relevant surveys if required.

You will need to identify the individual, for example the project manager or landowner, who will be the licensee and therefore legally responsible for compliance with the terms of the licence. You will also need to provide us with source material for the statement of need for the development and the planned activities and timetable of works.