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Protected Species Surveys: Water Vole

water vole mitigation

New water vole mitigation guidelines for development and construction projects were published in April 2016. Our Ecologists at agb Environmental have provided a useful overview of these guidelines and the key changes and recommendations.

The water vole is one of the UK’s fastest declining wild mammals. It is listed as a species of principal importance for the conservation. Water voles are also protected under UK wildlife legislation, making them a material consideration in the planning process. If identified as required, water vole surveys are often needed prior to validating a planning application.

The new guidance aims to guide ecological consultants when deciding upon the appropriateness of a water vole survey, and undertaking a water vole surveys and mitigation in the context of development and construction.

Key Recommendations

  • Water vole surveys: should involve a desk study, habitat assessment and field survey. Water vole field surveys now require two separate visits that are at least two months apart. One visit should occur between mid-April and June, and the other between July and September. However, there are situations in which only a single visit is likely to be required.
  • Licensing for displacement: Activities aimed at displacing water voles for development now require a licence. They must deliver a net benefit for water voles.
  • Relocation of water voles (trapping versus displacement): Displacement of water voles is potentially useful for small-scale works where the working area is 50m long max, the works are timed between 15th February and 15th April and where sufficient alternative habitat exists. Displacement that meets these criteria is possible under a Class Licence by a registered person, whereas displacement under other circumstances requires a project licence.
  • Appropriate timing for trapping and relocation operations: Water voles should ideally be trapped during early spring (1st March – 15th April) and as a last resort, during autumn (15th September – 30th November), although this is weather dependent.

agb Environmental has significant experience of surveying, obtaining licences and relocating water voles. As well as experience with a variety of other protected species and ecology works. Please get in touch with Richard Parmee (Head of Natural Environment) at or Cassie Todd (Principal Ecologist) on to discuss any projects where water voles or other ecology may be a constraint.

Ecology, News