Ecology News: Natural England to begin charging for mitigation licences

1. What is Natural England?

Natural England is a government adviser for the natural environment in England. Their remit is to ensure the protection of wildlife and landscapes for the public. It is Natural England that the public or companies have to contact if they wish to develop a house or site that may impact ecological habitats or protected species.

2. Mitigation licences

Mitigation licence applications are submitted to Natural England in order to obtain a licence to start works on a site or building, ensuring appropriate mitigation or compensation is put in place for wildlife. This is needed because it is illegal to harm, disturb or destroy wildlife and their habitats, and this protection is particularly enforced when dealing with protected species such as bats. There is currently no fee for applying for a mitigation or survey licence. However, this will change in April 2019. Further details about the new charges are shown in Section 4 below.

3. Charges for mitigation licenses

Natural England have decided to implement charges for mitigation licences in phases, beginning in April 2019. The first charges will be implemented on the dormouse mitigation licence from 1st April and on the 22nd April for bat licences. Badger licences will be charged from May onward and those for great crested newts and other protected species will follow soon after.

4. Benefits of this change.

Natural England state that this charge will strengthen customer service delivery. The applicants for the licences will be asked to provide details about their site so the initial cost of the licence can be determined. The cost of the licence will be payable via invoice after the licence has been issued. The level of this charge has been set to enable Natural England to determine 95% of applications within a period of 30 days. Natural England have advised that they will consider dealing with fast track applications for a higher fee.

The new policies will enable the process of mitigation and survey licences to run more quickly and smoothly, saving clients time and therefore money. This will also enable investment in creation of new wildlife habitats and enhancements to current ones. In addition, it will encourage planners to invest more in joining up of habitats for wildlife. It is hoped therefore that the introduction of this charge will be effective in protecting wildlife populations.

5. Implications for your project.

You should be aware of the provisional charges listed below when planning your future development projects, to avoid any unforeseen costs and ensure that you are complying with your legal obligations to protect wildlife.  

Provisional charges will be as follows:

  • Non-complex protected species mitigation licence e.g. great crested newt – £690.
  • Hourly rate for assessment of complex applications – £101.
  • Registration of survey licences – £80.
Slovenian Church

6. Natural England policies relating to mitigation licences.

Natural England have issued guidance on their updated policies, which govern the way that they deal with mitigation licence applications. Their policies are:

Policy 1: ‘Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating European Protected Species (EPS) from development sites.’

Policy 2: ‘Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for habitats that will be lost.’

Policy 3: ‘Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date.’

Policy 4: ‘Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted.’

 7. Conclusion

We are hopeful that the new charges being put in place by Natural England will lead to higher standards of service, quicker results, and responses relating to licences. This in turn will mean shorter waiting times for clients. This is because the longer a client waits for a licence to be processed, the more money the client spends on the site or the property they wish to develop.

It will also mean an investment by Natural England into our protected species and their habitats, using this money to fund projects that will benefit the public and wildlife.

Ultimately ecologists, clients and the public will have to wait and see how exactly this charge will affect both English development and protected species, but it is important to be aware of these changes and factor any additional costs into your development plans.