Protected Species: How and Why are They Protected?

Wales is famed for its rich, diverse and picturesque countryside. Unfortunately, many of our native plants and animals would be driven to extinction, whether intended or not, if they were not afforded protection by the Welsh, UK and European governments. Over the last few decades, we have become more aware of the damage that we have done to the planet and have begun to work towards protecting what is left and in some cases attempting to return it to its original state.

great crested newt- Protected Species
Great Crested Newt

Successive UK governments have passed acts of parliament intended to protect species and their habitats in order that future generations may continue to enjoy our countryside. The most commonly referenced of these being the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

The legislation is the key driver for ecological consultancy work.

What Is the Legislation For?

The legislation protects around 50 vertebrates and 70 invertebrates to various levels depending on their individual rarity. The offences include;

bird- Protected Species
Coal Tit
  • Sale, or offering/exposing for sale.
  • Intentional taking, killing or injuring.
  • Intentionally/ recklessly damaging or destroying its place of shelter/protection.
  • Intentionally/ recklessly disturbing it whilst occupying its place of shelter/ protection.
  • Intentionally/ recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter/ protection.

This number doesn’t include the birds which are classed separately within the legislation. Their nests and eggs are also protected, as well as the offences outlined above.

Fen Orchid- Protected Species
Fen Orchid – Britain’s Rarest Orchid

What About Plants?

It is not just animals that are protected; it is illegal to uproot any wild plants unless you obtain the landowner’s permission. Additionally, more than 100 flowering plants and 75 lower plants are afforded special protection, making it an offence to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy or to sell, offer or expose them for sale. This is just the legislation that covers native species…

Despite there being 50 or so non-native species established throughout the country, it is still an offence to allow any non-native animal to escape into the wild, this includes Grey Squirrels. It is also illegal to allow certain plants to grow in the wild, such as Japanese Knotweed.

japanese knotweed course
Japanese Knotweed

So, with all this legislation flying around you can see how confusing it can be determining whether a wildlife offence has been committed. A good example of this is the badger. Badgers are on the British protected species list and yet the government passed a law allowing them to be culled in certain counties.

How Do Protected Species Affect You?

Badger- Protected Species
Badger – Despite the cull they are still a protected species

In the most part, the legislation does not affect the general public at all. When it really comes into play is when applying for planning consent. Before developments can go ahead, an ecological survey is often a statutory requirement. This will ensure that no protected species are harmed and that the overall population is not affected. A wide range of projects require protected species surveys, anything from barn conversions, new build housing estates, infrastructure or maintenance projects.

This is where Acer Ecology come in. We are qualified ecologists who travel the length and breadth of Wales, England and beyond in order to assess developments, design mitigation strategies and ensure that developments can move forward with the minimum of disruption or delay. We ensure that protected species remain protected as part of the planning process. We undertake Vegetation surveys to ensure that declining habitats are not destroyed and Protected Species surveys to determine the presence of protected species on or near a site. We advise on legal requirements and find opportunities for biodiversity enhancement.bat- Protected Species

The main species we work with are Bats, Great crested newts, Reptiles, birds, Otters, Dormice and Badgers. They each have varying degrees of protection; the most protected being the bats, newts and dormice. The legislation requires us to design methods for the animals to either continue living where they are after completion of developments or if this is not possible, how best to develop around them or ensure that alternative habitat is made for them.

The important thing to remember is that just because they are there doesn’t mean a project can’t go ahead; whether it’s an extension to your house or a massive new development site.


To see the full lists of protected species follow the link to the Natural Resources Wales site.

Read our article on bat mitigation.

If you need ecological surveys as part of your planning application contact us on 029 2065 0331 or enquiries@acerecology.co.uk.