Everything you need to know about ecology rules before starting a demolition or development in England

Posted on March 8, 2024 by Categories: News

If you’ve been planning to start a project that involves demolishing an existing structure and/or undertaking groundworks, did you know that there are ecology laws you need to consider? The idea is to ensure a habitat isn’t disrupted or destroyed during key nesting seasons, and that the project won’t impact endangered or protected species. That means there are certain months of the year when you will be unable to remove trees, bushes and hedgerows to protect nesting and young birds. There are also rules to protect bats, newts and slow worms, and these impact building and demolition sites. It’s important that you know what the laws are and how they apply, so let’s take a closer look. 

Protecting nesting birds

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) protects nesting birds and their nests from disturbance or destruction. That means it’s an offense to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built, or to take or destroy their eggs. This legal protection extends to the months when birds are nesting. This is typically between March and August, although some species may nest outside of this period.

That means you will need to commission a qualified ecologist to conduct thorough surveys to identify nesting birds and their habitats in the area your project impacts. If any birds’ nests are found, you’ll need to take appropriate measures to avoid disturbing or destroying them. This may involve modifying project plans, implementing exclusion zones or moving the work to months outside of the nesting season.

Protecting bats

It might interest you to hear that all species of bats are protected under both domestic and European legislation. For England that’s the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations from 2017. It makes it illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb, injure or kill bats. It also prohibits damaging or destroying their roosting sites, which is usually where it impacts demolition and groundworks projects. Just like nesting birds, bats may use trees or buildings as roosting sites. That means that again, surveys are necessary to assess their presence before demolition or development activities commence.If bats are found, specific mitigation measures may be required, such as installing bat boxes, creating alternative roosting sites or implementing exclusion zones to protect the bats’ habitats.

Protecting newts and slow worms

Great crested newts, several other newt species and slow worms are all protected under the law. They are covered by both the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations of 2017. It’s illegal to intentionally disturb, injure or kill these species, or to damage or destroy their habitats. Their habitats include ponds and terrestrial areas and wetlands.

You’ll need to commission an ecological survey to assess the presence of newts and slow worms on or near any development sites before you start work. If they are found, mitigation measures may include habitat creation or translocation to alternative suitable habitats. Your ecologist will be able to advise you and help you access any additional help you need.

So, before you start carefully planning every stage of your demolition or development project, it’s vital to tick that ecological survey off the list and know where you stand when it comes to birds, bats, slow worms and newts. That way you can budget for any mitigation measures and adjust your timescales. If you’d like us to connect you with our recommended ecologists, we’re more than happy to help! Remember, we work on demolition and groundworks projects across Wiltshire and Gloucestershire and nationally, so we have an excellent network.