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Reptile surveys are back on the assessment agenda

There are various reptile species in the United Kingdom and they are all legally protected: Two rare species under European legislation, and the widespread reptile species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Local Planning Authorities will require a survey if there is potential for reptiles to be using your site. Now is the time to find out if your development plans could impact reptiles and require a reptile survey.

The types of reptile species found in Great Britain include the European protected smooth snake and sand lizard, which have specialist habitat requirements and a restricted distribution: these two are rarely found on potential building plots.
The more widespread species (common lizard, slow worm, grass snake and adder) all have individual habitat preferences, including heathland, woodland, hedge banks, arable field margins, derelict ground and allotments. The grass snake also favours land closely associated with water, such as marsh and wetland.

Reptiles emerge from winter hibernation at the beginning of spring, typically (depending on the weather) around mid-March. They are mostly active until late autumn (September or October). Surveys can be undertaken throughout this period, but not during the hotter periods when reptiles may aestivate (a period of inactivity when it is too hot).

If your site is suitable to support reptiles and you fail to establish if they are present before carrying out the following activities, you could be breaking the law:

  • Removal of debris, wood piles and rubble.
  • Trimming of grassland and vegetation to a low level.
  • Archaeological and geotechnical investigations.
  • Driving, parking or leaving machinery on sensitive land.
  • Clearing land, laying foundations, creating pipelines, building site offices and services.

Under best practice guidelines, and to provide the local planning authority with a valid survey report, sites should be visited seven times to assess if reptiles could be present. With this in mind, we encourage you to contact the team at agb Environmental and find out if a reptile survey is likely to be required for any development plans you may have this year, so that the surveys – which take several weeks to complete – can be scheduled in the correct season and won’t hold up planning applications.

For help with any of your ecological issues and reptile assessments contact Odette Robson, Principal Ecologist at agb Environmental on 01638 663226 or email

Ecology, Surveys