Reptile Surveys and Mitigation

There are six native terrestrial species of reptile found in the UK which are often grouped into two categories; ‘widespread’ reptiles and rare reptiles. The widespread species consist of two lizard species, viviparous lizard and slow-worm, and two snake species, adder and grass snake. Both lizards are found throughout England in a range of habitats, including brownfield sites. Grass snakes are also found throughout England, sometimes encountered in urban areas such as gardens and often associated with water bodies. Adder distribution is patchier and they are scarce in some counties. They are most often found on heathland, meadows and in woodland glades.

There are two rare species of reptile, both restricted in their distribution due to their exclusive habitat preferences. Sand lizards are found on heathland and dunes, mainly in southern England (majority of populations are in Dorset, with small numbers elsewhere). Smooth snakes are found exclusively on a number of heathlands in southern England, from Surrey to Dorset.

Reptile activity varies according to the species and is highly seasonal and weather dependent. Generally they hibernate when the temperature becomes unfavourable, usually from October to March and are active outside of these times. However, during the active period their behaviour is affected by weather conditions and breeding activity. Typically they are active in warm, dry weather, but avoid prolonged exposure to the sun on very hot days. If your development site includes coarse grassland, open scrub, hedgerows and woodland edge habitats, you may need to survey for this species before applying for planning consent. This applies to many urban and residential areas, recreational grounds, golf courses, allotments and rail corridors.

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Case Studies

Rampion Offshore Windfarm - Reptile Translocation

Reptile population estimate surveys were required in 2015 for a port expansion area at Newhaven East Quay.  The proposed development will provide the construction project management and services base for the Rampion Offshore Windfarm.

The development area is c.2.3ha and is bounded by the existing port operational area and the beach.  The area mainly consists of ......

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Summary of Legal Protection

The widespread species are partially protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), making it an offence to intentionally kill or injure any of these species, and/or sell, or attempt to sell, any part of the species, alive or dead. Sand lizard and smooth snake are fully protected under the 1981 Act and Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and are European Protected Species. Together the legislation makes it an offence to:

  • Deliberately kill, injure or capture a sand lizard or smooth snake
  • Destroy, damage or obstruct a sand lizard or smooth snake resting place or breeding site, intentionally or recklessly
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb a sand lizard or smooth snake while it is occupying a structure or place of shelter or protection

Surveys, Impact Assessment and Mitigation

Our professional ecologists can help ensure your project is designed and implemented in compliance with the legal protections for reptiles, improving the chances of successfully gaining planning permission while minimising the scope for impacts on these species. Our services include:

  • Habitat suitability assessments
  • Transect and artificial refuge surveys to establish presence or likely absence
  • Population estimate surveys
  • Receptor site surveys
  • Translocations
  • Habitat management include destructive searches
  • Habitat creation and enhancement works
  • Post-construction monitoring

Following the completion of appropriately designed surveys, we carry out impact assessments and advise on design alterations to retain important habitat features – mosaics of habitat interfaces with a range of foraging and dispersal habitats, shelter and hibernation sites – integrated within the site where possible. Alternatively we can advise on mitigation and enhancement measures to ensure there are no long term impacts on species survival. Sometimes this can involve the creation of new habitats and/or translocations to suitable habitats away from the development site.

We’ve carried out reptile surveys and translocations on schemes of all sizes and assisted numerous clients in successfully gaining planning permission while complying with legal protections for reptiles. Our ecology team operates throughout the UK, although our core area includes Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and London.

Ecological Surveys

Impact Assessments

Environmental Planning


Biodiversity Net Gain