New licensing policies: great for wildlife – great for business?
By Sian Mitchell, Senior Associate Ecologist
The triggering of Article 50 raises the question as to whether our clients should now be adopting a different approach on sites where there are great crested newts or other species protected by the European Directives. The answer: no not for now, or for as long as we remain in the EU.
What about once we’ve left the EU? The answer: still no, or at least not immediately. In preparing for Brexit the Government published the Great Repeal Bill on 30 March. This paves the way for the same rules and laws to continue in force until amended through Statutory Instrument or other parliamentary process following Brexit. In order to achieve a stable and smooth transition, the Government’s overall approach is to convert the body of existing EU law into domestic law.
In the meantime, and arguably of much greater immediate interest to our clients, is the pressure the Government has placed on the licensing authority (Natural England) to make life easier for schemes affected by the presence of European Protected Species. The result has been the release of four new licensing policies to guide the mitigation required for European Protected Species, most notably great crested newts. These were announced with much fanfare, and seek to focus mitigation effort on the overall conservation status of the species affected as opposed to the safeguarding of each and every individual.
What does this mean for our clients? The new polices are intended to substantially reduce survey costs and the need for expensive measures, including the extensive translocation programmes that have long since been a feature of mitigation schemes for great crested newts. Natural England’s interpretation of these new policies will be tested over the coming months as licence applications are determined. However, the new, more strategic approach to mitigation and the end to the days when every newt was sacred opens up helpful new options and has to be good news for our clients.