Last edited 27 Jul 2015

Protected species licence

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The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides protection for animal and plant species that are rare in Great Britain. However, Under certain circumstances, it may be necessary disturb or remove wildlife:

  • To prevent damage to agriculture, livestock, fisheries, property or archaeology.
  • To protect the health and safety of the general public.
  • To carry out maintenance and land development.
  • For science, education and conservation purposes.
  • To prevent disease amongst species.
  • To keep or release non-native species.
  • To sell, own, exhibit or transport protected species.

A licence may be required to disturb certain habitats or remove wildlife from their natural environments. Failure to obtain a suitable licence can result in a fine of up to £5,000 and 6 months in prison.

There are 3 main types of licence:

  • General licences, for activities that need a specific skill or experience to avoid risk to the conservation or welfare of a protected species. General licences do not need to be applied for, but it is necessary to be eligible to use them under the conditions of the specific licence.
  • Class licences, for activities that have a lower risk to conservation or the welfare of a protected species. It is necessary to register with Natural England and to be eligible to use the licence.
  • Individual licences which must be applied for. Applicants may need to provide references and proof of qualification. Individual licences tend to take around 30 working days to obtain. Normally licences last for one year and can be renewed by applying to Natural England.

In addition, licences may be necessary to:

  • Keep or release non-native species.
  • Release a non-native species.
  • Keep mink, grey squirrel and coypu.
  • Keep non-native bumblebees.

European protected species (EPS) receive protection under the Conservation of Species and Habitat Regulations 2010. This means it is an offence to:

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill any European protected species.
  • Deliberately disturb them.
  • Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place.

A mitigation licence may be required for work that impacts on European protected species. Mitigation licence applications must pass 3 tests:

  • The activity must be for a certain purpose (for example, for scientific research or in the public interest).
  • There must be no satisfactory alternative that will cause less harm to the species.
  • The activity must not harm the long-term conservation status of the species, and so it may be necessary to create new habitats to offset any damage.

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