A government consultation, ending on the 7th April this year, has proposed four new policies around licensing for European Protected Species (EPS). Natural England stated that these policies are designed to cut costs, delays and uncertainty for developers by concentrating on the improvement of populations in the wider local area, with particular focus on the great crested newt. The policies will incorporate an offer of flexibility on the location of alternative habitat provision as well as allowing EPS to access temporary habitats and reduce the survey time currently needed on development sites.
This means that the emphasis will move away from individual to species level, in order to maintain the conservation status of the species. As a result individuals found on development sites may not have to be moved if it is felt that this would not contribute to the long term health of the local population. It has been acknowledged that this is likely to cause some EPS deaths on development sites. However, it is felt that shifting focus to EPS populations as a whole is a promising idea, which could save on costly survey and mitigation work, but more importantly would create opportunities to create better quality habitats with more long-term benefit to EPSs. This has been met with tentative approval by ecologists and conservation organisations who point out that health and wellbeing of people and wildlife is better on new developments where green, wild space is incorporated from the outset.
The outcome of the consultation is yet to be publicised but it seems likely that the proposed changes will be applied to the licensing system. At first the changes would only apply to great crested newt but Natural England would look in to rolling out the new licencing rules to other EPS in time.
(Sources: BBC News, 2016; Natural England, 2016)