The UK is home to a huge array of wildlife, much of it protected by conservation law. Coombes offer a wide range of survey services to support responsible development, and we help developers secure the licences they need to stay fully compliant.
All 17 native species of bat in the UK are legally protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations. Among other things, these laws make it illegal to disturb bats and to damage, destroy or obstruct access to bat roosts.
With huge fines and criminal records both realistic consequences for anyone disturbing habitats, it’s important to assess your site’s potential for supporting bat life as early as possible.
Coombes offers a range of expertly delivered services to ensure your project can move forward safely and legally in areas where bats may be present: from Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRA) and Tree Climbing Surveys to Hibernation and Return to Roost Surveys.
Water voles and otters inhabit watercourses of all kinds across much of the UK and are fully protected by UK law. If your site contains any rivers, streams or ditches, it’s important to assess whether your development will affect the lives and habitats of these animals, so you can proceed responsibly and legally.
If an early assessment (such as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal – or PEA) identifies potential water vole and otter habitats within your development site, Coombes experts can conduct more detailed – or Phase II - surveys to search for evidence of the animals’ presence.
There are more than 600 species of bird in the UK, and they live in a diverse range of habitats: from farmland, forests and heathland to towns and city centres. Their ubiquitous nature makes them a key planning consideration for developers and site managers.
Bird surveys may be required when a habitat present within a development site is likely to support species protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act – something you’ll find out during a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA). Coombes’ ecology experts can gather the evidence you need to continue with your development and avoid mid-project disruption.
Dormouse surveys should be carried out when developments are likely to affect areas of woodland, scrub and nearby hedgerows, as these are the species’ primary habitats.
Coombes has two ways of identifying dormouse life within a development site: we can either search for evidence of food and droppings (scoping) or use nest tubes (trapping) – the right method depends on various factors, including likely habitat size and the time of year.
Although rarely seen, badgers are widespread throughout the UK and their presence should be considered carefully by site managers and developers, especially those working on greenfield sites.
Coombes can identify badger activity or prove its absence by searching your development area for forms of evidence like setts (nests), latrines (dung pits) and tracks. If evidence is found, we can recommend next steps to help you move forward legally, responsibly and efficiently.
Most development sites are home to a variety of invertebrate species, but some environments are more likely to house rare – and more importantly, protected – species.
If preliminary assessments determine that your development site has the potential to contain the habitats of protected invertebrates, Coombes’ expert ecologists can conduct a more thorough survey to record their presence or prove their absence. This will allow you to move forward in complete compliance with the Wildlife and Countryside Act and other relevant legislation.
White-clawed crayfish inhabit streams and rivers in a handful of areas in the UK and are protected under law because of recent declines in population.
The species’ conservation status is a key consideration for planning authorities, so it’s important for developers to determine their presence or absence early on if the site in question is in an area with known populations.
We carry out white-clawed crayfish surveys at certain times of year to fit in with the species’ breeding patterns and use a range of techniques to check for their presence: from traditional trapping to manual searches conducted during the day and at night.
Great crested newts – one of the UK’s most protected species - spend breeding season in pond areas but then move onto nearby land for the rest of the year, meaning they can impact development projects even in instances when there are no watercourses within site boundaries.
Coombes expert ecologists use a range of methods to determine the presence of great crested newts and, if required, assess population size. A survey may involve trapping techniques, egg searching or even environmental DNA (eDNA) testing.
The UK is home to six native species of reptile, and all are protected under UK law. It’s vital, therefore, to determine the presence or absence of species like slow worms, lizards and snakes early in the development planning process.
Reptile surveys are recommended for development sites that contain heathland, low-lying moorland, scrub, sand dunes and sea cliffs. They’re also advisable on brownfield development sites, as these largely undisturbed areas can house a structurally diverse range of reptile-friendly habitats.
Coombes’ ecologists typically use a combination of two survey methods record or disprove the presence of reptiles on a development site: visual evidence searches and the checking of artificial refugia laid down specifically to draw nearby reptiles.
If it’s discovered through a survey that your development could adversely impact a fully protected species, you’ll need the appropriate wildlife licence from either Natural England or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in order to proceed. The specific licence needed will be influenced by the species in question and the anticipated impact of your development.
Coombes can help you identify which type of licence you need and ensure you obtain it by putting together mitigation and compensation strategies that meet all government requirements.