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Amphibians and Reptiles are two ancient groups of animals. The study of Amphibians and Reptiles is known as Herpetology and together both groups of animals are referred to as herpetofauna or herptiles.
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Overview

Amphibians and Reptilesli are two ancient groups of animals. The study of Amphibians and Reptiles is known as Herpetology and together both groups of animals are referred to as herpetofauna or herptiles.

There are 6 species of native amphibian and four of these species are indigenous to the Bridgend area. These being: Common Frog, (Rana temporaria), Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Common or Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris), Palmate Newts (Lissotriton helveticus) and the Great Crested or Warty Newt (Triturus cristatus). For great Crested Newt also see: Guidance Sheet B5: Great Crested Newt and Development.

Frogs, toads and newts often live in the undergrowth and provide a free pest control service; every allotment would benefit greatly from having its own wildlife pond.

Of the 6 native reptile species in the UK, four are present in the Bridgend area. These are: the Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis), Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix), Adder or European Viper (Vipera berus) and the Common or Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara).

Herpetofauna live in a variety of habitats throughout South and West Wales. The most important factors regarding suitable habitat for amphibians are access to water for breeding and safe refuge on land. Reptiles need areas that receive a lot of sun and a complex variety of vegetation of varying height, it doesn’t matter what the vegetation is so much as its structure.

Herpetofauna populations in South Wales are under ever increasing pressure throughout Britain due to a variety of reasons such as habitat loss, colony isolation and human encroachment.

Typical Herpetofauna: Habitat: Ponds and surrounding habitat, heathland, woodland rides and edges, bramble and gorse banks, coastal paths & sand dunes.

Legislation

Reptile species, such as the grass snake, adder, slow worm and common lizard receive protection under Section 9 (1) and (5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended), which makes it an offence to intentionally and recklessly kill, injure or take any species of reptile.

Widespread amphibians; palmate newt, smooth newt, common frog and common toad are listed on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but are protected (section 9[5]) only with respect to trade (prohibition of sale and advertising for sale, etc.).

Great Crested Newt receives the highest level of protection. Individuals and their breeding sites and places of shelter receive full statutory protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) (the Habitats Regulations). This makes it an offence to kill (or injure), take or disturb any great-crested newt or damage or disturb any breeding site or place of shelter. 

The maximum penalty for non-compliance with Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) for each offence in the Magistrates’ Court is a £5000 fine and/or six months imprisonment and a £5000 fine and two years imprisonment in the Crown Court. Any equipment used to commit the offence may be forfeited. Both the company and the individuals can be held liable. The smooth snake, sand lizard and natterjack toad also carry additional penalties, similar to that of the great crested newt, but are not found in the Bridgend area.

Surveys

Do I need to undertake a survey for reptiles?

GUIDANCE NOTE 1: Where it can reasonably be predicted that reptiles could be killed or injured by activities such as site clearance, earthworks or construction operations etc., to carry out such activities in the absence appropriate mitigation could legally constitute intentional or ‘reckless’ killing and injury. Therefore, the applicant should seek advice form a suitably qualified ecology in advance of works and mitigated for accordingly.

An assessment of reptiles should be considered at an early stage on any sites that may support them.

The presence of reptiles may affect the programming of work and the scope for development. Early consideration can resolve most potential conflicts and avoid expensive delays. It is wise to do this even before purchasing a site, as the presence of reptiles could affect the scope for development. The field survey should confirm if reptiles are there (or likely to be there); assess how important the site is in terms of reptiles.

Reptiles may be found in a range of habitats, both in countryside and some urban situations. Typical reptile habitats include brownfield sites, allotments, compost heaps, railway/road embankments, south facing banks, chalk grassland, rough grassland and areas where there is a diverse structure such as grassland with scrub edges. Grass snakes will often favour habitats near wetland areas and ponds. Woodland sites can often be important hibernation areas for reptiles.

Where reptiles are known to be present locally and the site supports potential reptile habitat Bridgend CBC will expect to be provided with survey and mitigation plans before making a decision on planning applications. Planning conditions and other agreements may be imposed on consents to ensure effective reptile conservation.

Sometimes formal environmental assessments are required before planning permission will be considered; this is mainly for large-scale projects.

However, you may not need a new survey if your ecological advisers are confident that, based on existing information and a habitat assessment, the impacts of development will be minimal, and that further survey information would neither change this view nor significantly modify mitigation proposals

In most situations less formal assessments may be needed to determine the impacts on reptiles. Where mitigation and compensation are needed, present these plans with the application. This will allow a full evaluation of the net effects of development and reptile protection measures, and can help speed up the decision-making process.

Further advice can be found from Natural England: Reptiles: guidelines for developersliv and Natural England Standing Advice Species Sheet: Reptileslv.

Herptile friendly features can be incorporated into the landscape design, in combination with mitigation can avoid impact on herptiles and achieve net gain.

If planning permission is granted, the law protecting reptiles still applies even if there are no conditions relating to reptiles. Because of this, developers must make every reasonable effort to safeguard reptiles. Similarly, some damaging activities, such as archaeological investigations, may not require planning permission but could still be unlawful if undertaken without proper care.

Do I need to undertake a survey for amphibians?

An assessment of amphibians should be considered at an early stage on any sites that may support them.

The presence of great crested newts will affect the programming of work and the scope for development. 

Other considerations will also need to be taken into account. For example the common toad is a Species of principal importance in Wales Section 42 species under the Natural Resources and Rural Communities Act 2006 and is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. Bridgend CB Local Development Plan Policy ENV6
Nature conservation expects developers to avoid or overcome harm to nature conservation assets and/or species of wildlife which may be either resident, in-situ or which have been demonstrated to have frequent habitats within the site on a migratory basis.

As part of the Green Infrastructure Approach, habitats should be identified, protected and enhanced where possible. For example: incorporating existing ponds and a buffer into the design of the development; by ensuring appropriate mitigation if ponds are lost to development. Enhancements can be made by promoting pond construction in appropriate new developments and by ensuring roads built across known migration routes have wildlife tunnels e.g. Toads.

South East Wales Biological Records Centre should be requested to undertake a search for herptiles to inform survey effort. In addition other relevant organisations may hold useful data including NRW, and the local amphibian and reptile groups.

If the proposed development is within 8 metres of a watercourse please consult NRW.

Survey Methodology

GUIDANCE NOTE 2: The Council will only accept survey/assessment work which has been undertaken by a suitably qualified person within the recognised survey guidelines

Reptile activity is highly seasonal and weather dependent, meaning that there are limited windows of opportunity for survey and mitigation work. Developers must allow for this when programming development.

Reptiles are most effectively surveyed in April, May and September. Surveys should not be undertaken during times of inactivity, which are typically from November to February inclusive, and occasionally during very hot, dry weather in July to August. There can be variation in these timings due to local weather patterns or species differences.

Site assessments for common lizards, slow worms, adders and grass snakes by a suitably qualified person will provide a good idea of the likelihood of reptiles occurring on the development site and their impact on proposed activities. Site assessments of habitat suitability may be undertaken at any time of year by experienced surveyors.

If deemed necessary, reptile presence or likely absence survey should be conducted following approved guidelines; if presence is confirmed a population assessment should be carried out to guide mitigation strategies.

As well as direct impacts upon reptiles and their breeding sites or resting places, development activities may result in indirect impacts and these should be fully considered at the application stage.

Incorporation and enhancements of the green infrastructure assets into the design of the scheme in context with the surrounding environment in combination with avoidance measures may negate for the need for surveys and other mitigation and compensatory measures for not only reptiles but other protected species. Bridgend CBC expects a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity in all schemes.

An example of an indirect impact could be on connectivity and habitat linkages. If key habitat linkages such as hedgerows, woodland, shelter belts, rough grassland,
heathland and scrub are to be lost or severed, this may have indirect impacts upon the reptile population(s), restricting access to other parts of their habitat, even if that habitat is retained.

Development may sever the summer and hibernation sites for reptiles. Since much of the survey effort for reptiles is focussed on summer sites, it is important to consider possible hibernation sites as well.

In addition the scheme must not be considered in isolation, it may allow access to all required resources, such as summer feeding grounds or hibernation areas, which may be off the development site, and may be of considerable size. Development of such as a site may create a barrier to movement.

Further advice can be found from Evaluating local mitigation/translocation: best practice and lawful standards and Natural England Standing Advice Species Sheet:
Reptiles.

GUIDANCE NOTE 3: Where surveys indicate that reptiles will be affected by the development proposal, the Council will require a Method Statement to be submitted with the planning application for the application to be registered. If it is considered that the proposed avoidance, mitigation, compensation measures are not satisfactory, the Local Planning Authority will refuse the planning application.

 

Licencing

For the adder, grass snake, slow-worm, common lizard and amphibians (excluding Great Crested Newt) you do not need a licence to capture or disturb them, or to damage their habitats. However, the reptiles themselves are still protected, so there is a risk you will commit offences if damaging the habitats causes harm to reptiles. Bridgend CB expects high standards to be maintained in all mitigation.

Avoidance

GUIDANCE NOTE 4: Avoidance measures built into development proposals may remove the need for detailed survey work, the Council will seek expert advice from NRW in determining cases when this may be applicable.

Avoidance measures are those measures that can reasonably be implemented to avoid an offence occurring. As such, these Reasonable Avoidance Measures (RAMs) can often avoid the requirement for a licence. RAMs are the preferred approach when considering design of a scheme. RAMs may include measures ranging from revising the site layout to avoid loss of an important feature, carrying out works at a time which is less likely to result in disturbance or amending working methods to reduce impacts to an acceptable level.

If RAMs are practical within a scheme, these must still be detailed in a Method Statement which is submitted to the Council for approval. Implementation of the measures outlined in the RAMs Method Statement will likely be a condition of the resulting planning consent.

If the RAMs avoid all anticipated impacts affecting great crested newts and their habitats to acceptable levels, a licence is unlikely to be required. This can often avoid or reduce delays to commencing development and will often reduce costs as well.

It is therefore important to create communication channels between your architects (landscape or otherwise) and your chosen suitably qualified ecologist during the
masterplanning process. This will aid in guiding the design and programme at an early enough stage to identify whether RAMs may be a suitable approach.

Early identification and incorporation of green infrastructure assets into a development will help reduce the development impact of a scheme and provide opportunities for RAMs and avoid more complex mitigation and compensation schemes which may require a license.

Vegetation Clearance

Reptiles can only be managed when they are active (Apr-Oct). Over spring, summer and early autumn grasses are cut in a phased approach through the site toward refuges left on site or adjacent to the site. This can leave a conflict with site clearance occurring when birds are nesting. To avoid conflict the following Method Statement for site clearance can help avoid harm to these protected species.

Nesting opportunities can be removed before mid- February by cutting all grasses and isolated shrubs to a maximum height of 150mm, leaving more significant scrub untouched as reptiles may be hibernating in the surrounding ground (potential hibernation sites should be identified and marked by a suitably qualified ecologist prior to works).

Over the following spring, summer and early autumn the grasses should be cleared in such a way that if reptiles are present on site they will easily be able to move to adjacent suitable habitat/ wildlife corridor. For example, following: Evaluating local mitigation and translocation programmes: Maintaining Best Practice and Lawful Standards (HGBI), a strip of vegetation 2m wide should be cut to a height of 10- 15cm. This will avoid harming reptiles, but will make it less hospitable to reptiles.

After a wait of at least a day, this strip should be cut as close to the ground as possible, with an adjacent 2m strip cut to 10-15cm. This should be continued in the direction of the suitable habitat away from any roads. Surface contaminants (e.g. asbestos) can be trapped by covering cut areas with a thin skim of new soil.

Cut material, piles of debris etc. should be removed not to leave reptile shelters. Should reptiles be found on site a competent ecologist should be available to capture any reptiles and amphibians and relocate them to a safe area.

Once the bird nesting season is over the residual scrub patches can be removed and the same methodology of vegetation clearance can be implemented to encourage reptiles to move out of the development site (September – October). If it is essential the whole site is cleared during the bird nesting season, it must be demonstrated through submission to the Local Planning Authority of an appropriate survey immediately prior to works commencing that nesting birds are absent or a Method Statement is included in the clearance methodology and agreed in writing with the local planning authority and fully implemented

Vegetation clearance methods, such as phased site clearance can be used to encourage species such as reptiles off site provided they have a suitable habitat to disperse too.

It is therefore recommended that a condition of consent be that a clearance methodology for site clearance taking into account reptiles and nesting birds be submitted to the local authority for approval prior to the commencement of works and thereafter be fully implemented.

The above approach would comply with the Adopted Bridgend County Borough Local Development Plan (2006- 2021) Policy ENV6.

Where habitat opportunities exist for birds and reptiles at a site, the site clearance methodology can be adapted to suit the site, but must be considered early in the site development.

Where European protected species occur on site, vegetation clearance may only be undertaken under a licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). See checklist for species that may occur on your site.

When potential refugia are encountered on an urban development site some can often be moved by hand to minimise harm to these species. Potential refugia in this environment include stone piles, log piles, wooden planks & metal sheets lying on the floor etc.

GUIDANCE NOTE 5: Developers/applicants must provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that avoidance is not possible before mitigation or compensation is considered as a viable alternative.

Mitigation

Mitigation measures built into proposals may also reduce the amount of survey work required (including survey effort and spatial extent), though there must still be sufficient information supplied to understand the nature of impacts and their likely effect on the conservation status of the species concerned.

GUIDANCE NOTE 6: Where harm is unavoidable it is a requirement that any harm will be minimised by mitigation to be established by a suitably qualified ecologist and in agreement with the Council.

Depending on the scale of development and predicted impacts, it may not be possible to rely on RAMs alone to fully address all potential impacts affecting reptiles or their habitats. Early communication across the design team will promote a greater understanding of all the constraints, ecological or otherwise, and allow a balanced approach to the development design.

Where RAMs cannot satisfactorily avoid impacts affecting reptiles, mitigation measures will be required to ensure no harm comes to reptiles and that no net loss of their habitats results. The exact measures required will be dependent on the population size, distribution and proximity to works and the scale, timing and duration of the works. Measures could include trapping out the site to remove any reptiles and amphibians and the installation of fencing to prevent reptiles and amphibians re entering the site during construction amongst others.

Mitigation measures to be implemented will be detailed in the Method Statement. Schemes must therefore be carried out in strict accordance with the Method Statement

Mitigation schemes may include a combination of hand catching reptiles under refugia and translocating the animals to an on/off site receptor habitat. Exclusion fencing systems may be required and habitat manipulation to restrict the movement of animals and thus achieve a ‘clear’ site. Mitigation schemes must include enhancement works and long term habitat management commitments, especially with large populations of animals.

Herptiles should be accommodated within existing and/or new created habitats on the development site (this is usually preferable to off-site translocation). This is especially important for species such as adder, whose faithfulness to hibernacula and other resources make successful translocation more difficult.

If the scheme involves translocation, the developer must identify and survey both the development site and the receptor site and produce a translocation strategy that must be submitted to and agreed by the Bridgend CBC. The most effective time to undertake reptile translocations is between April and late June and again between August and late September, although translocation works can be undertaken outside of these optimal periods.

Translocation will only be considered as a last resort when reptiles cannot be accommodated on site. The translocation strategy must include a long term management plan for the receptor site.

Any proposals for mitigation and translocation should follow best practice advice and guidance such as contained in Evaluating local mitigation/translocation programmes: maintaining best practice and lawful standards and Natural England: Reptiles: guidelines for developers and Natural England Standing Advice Species Sheet: Reptiles.

Compensation

GUIDANCE NOTE 7: Compensation will only be considered where the developer/applicant has satisfactorily demonstrated that avoidance and mitigation are not possible and the compensatory measures result in no net loss of habitat.

Where mitigation cannot satisfactorily reduce all potential impacts to satisfactory levels, additional compensation measures will likely be required.

Compensation measures most frequently involve habitat losses. For example, if the loss of a pond cannot be avoided in the proposed development then a compensatory pond(s) should be created prior to the pond’s loss. The loss of terrestrial habitats also requires offsetting, such that sufficient terrestrial habitat is provided to maintain breeding, foraging, refuge and dispersal functions for the affected population. The population size and natural range must also be maintained, so it will be important to consider the connectivity between retained habitats, new habitats and existing habitats in the wider area.

Habitat compensation must be provided in advance of exclusion of the site and the capture of reptiles and amphibians. This will enable the transfer of fauna to the compensation area(s) before they are disturbed by development.

Compensation should ensure that once completed, there will be no net loss of breeding or resting sites. In fact where significant impacts are predicted there will be an expectation that compensation will provide an enhanced habitat (in terms of quality or area) compared with that to be lost. Compensation should also remedy any loss of connectivity brought about through the development.

Enhancement

Large development sites have the opportunity to enhance the surrounding habitats and connecting corridors for amphibians, reptiles and other flora and fauna and provide natural interest for residents.

  • Incorporation of wildlife ponds, including suitable adjoining terrestrial habitat, into new developments, even if herptiles are not affected by the development. Where they are affected mitigation measures should include recreation of ponds on a two for one basis.
  • Creation of ‘networks’ of ponds linked by suitable terrestrial habitat.
  • Creation/enhancement of refuges/over-wintering sites within existing as well as new habitat.
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