There are six native species of reptile in the UK. The most common and widespread of these are adder, common lizard, grass snake and slow worm. Smooth snake and sand lizard also occur within the UK, although these species are less common and have a very localised distribution, mainly in the south of the UK.
Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) protects against intentionally killing, injuring or taking native reptile species. It also prohibits interference with places used for shelter or protection. The smooth snake and sand lizard are afforded additional protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 which prohibits damage or destruction to their breeding sites and resting places.
In order to avoid killing or injuring of reptiles during works, it is recommended that presence/absence surveys are undertaken of habitats considered suitable for supporting reptiles.
The optimal time for undertaking reptile surveys is during April, May or September when weather conditions are most suitable. The weather at the time of the survey should be warm and sunny, but ideally below 16°C. It is often possible to carry out surveys during the summer months, however this is sub-optimal and additional visits (often ten) will be required to give confidence in the results.
A reptile survey is usually carried out by the deployment of artificial refuges, which are comprised of sheets of corrugated tin and squares of bitumastic roofing felt (approximately 0.75m x 0.75m) that are laid in suitable situations throughout the site. The artificial refugia warm up in the early morning, or afternoon sun and provide favourable conditions for reptiles to bask and / or shelter. Grass snakes and slow worms will generally be found under the artificial refugia, whereas lizards will often be recorded on top of the tins / felts.
The artificial refuges are checked on seven occasions in suitable weather conditions to determine presence or presumed absence. Should a population estimate be required, additional surveys may be necessary.
To request a more detailed reptile survey information sheet, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the Survey
We will provide a report detailing the results of our survey and any required mitigation as soon as possible following the survey, however; should you have a specific date for submission of a planning application we will do our utmost to accommodate this.
Dependent upon the development proposals and / or the number and species of reptiles found during the reptile survey, a variety of mitigation options are available.
Appropriate Timing of Works
The works can sometimes be timed to avoid harm to reptiles. For example, if there are no suitable hibernation features on site, works can be carried out over winter without the possibility of injuring over-wintering reptiles. Alternatively, vegetatian clearance can be carried out on a warm, sunny day during the reptile active period, using a pedestrian strimmer, in order to encourage the reptiles to move away from the working area of their own accord. Supervision by an ecologist may be required for this stage of the works.
Maintenance of Habitat
The ideal solution to the presence of reptiles within a development site is to maintain suitable habitat within the new development. This could include a less frequently mown grassland area, a habitat corridor around the perimeter of the site or maintenance of the features preferred by reptiles, such as dry stone walls and compost heaps.
Creation of New Habitat
This could include creation of reptile hibernacula formed from vegetation and log piles or rubble banks. It could also include planting and managing an area specifically for reptiles.
In some cases, in order for works to proceed, the reptiles may need to be moved from the development site to a suitable receptor site. This involves surveys to find a suitable receptor site, followed by a period of trapping and removal from the site to be developed. Reptile proof fencing may be required to prevent the species from returning to the development site. Monitoring of the translocated population will also be required and it is possible that some habitat creation and improvement at the receptor site may be required.