What is a BS5837 tree survey?

In April 2012 the revised BS 5837: 2012 ‘Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction – Recommendations’ came into practice. The British Standard provides guidance in respect of trees on development sites.

When conducting the tree survey onsite the arboriculturalist will make decisions on which trees are to be retained by looking at the condition of the tree and the potential is has grow and develop healthily. Useful questions to ask as part of a tree inspection are: does the tree have any structural defects? Is it significantly contributing to the amenity of the area? Are there any signs of early disease? What is the estimated remaining lifespan of the tree?

Information will also be collected on the spatial dimensions of the tree such as stem diameter, height and crown spread. The tree survey data can then be used to inform design stages and establish methods for tree protection during the demolition and construction phases of the project based on which trees are marked for retention.

If trees are to be retained, constraints to be considered are both above and below ground. The root protection area (RPA) is the constraint below ground, this is the area in which the tree has established its root network and must be protected throughout development. The constraints above ground are dictated by the height and spread of the tree, future growth potential, shading potential and what you are proposing to construct. This applies to planning applications for most developments.

If the work you are proposing does not involve Local Planning Authority (LPA) consent it is advised that surveys be carried out as described in BS5837 to inform good design practice.

If your trees are subject to Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), or are within a conservation area the legislation that covers protected trees overrides any permitted development rights. Work carried out without consent from the LPA can lead to prosecution.

Great crested newt mitigation and translocation

When should I think about great crested newt mitigation ?

If you are planning on developing a site and have had an ecological survey to assess impacts to wildlife read on. The results of this survey have identified potential impacts on great crested newts in and around the proposed development area.  You need to start thinking about mitigation for great crested newts at this point. For example you may need to create new habitats offsite to offset any damage on site.

What happens if there are great crested newts in an area for proposed development?

You must apply for a European Protected Species Mitigation (EPSM) licence from Natural England (NE). There is no charge by NE for EPSM licenses, however, the development must pass three legal tests. The activity must be for a purpose of public interest (for example, for providing housing ). 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.

Planning permission for any development of the proposed site should be granted prior to applying for an EPSM licence. Once a licence has been applied for, you can usually expect a licensing decision within 30 days, but NE is currently assessing a large volume of applications.

A mitigation strategy forms part of the licence application. This both safeguards the great crested newt population before and after works and prevents harm to the individual animals. There will be a legally binding Method Statement which will include methods e.g. for translocation to remove individual newts, and a timetable.  Although these can be varied if something unexpected happens, not complying with the licence is a legal offence, so they need to be well thought through.


Sometimes it is not possible to retain newt populations within a development site. In this case they will need to be moved – known as “translocation” or trapping out.  Translocation of Great Crested Newts will always involve a licence application to Natural England.

In the application Natural England will want to see that :

– The translocation site is as near as possible to the original site. In general over a mile would be unacceptable to them except in exceptional circumstances.  This is because the mitigation needs to maintain the populations at a local level, but also due to the risks of spreading chytrid and other amphibian diseases across the countryside.

– Any ponds removed or adversely affected will be replaced, preferably at a least a 2:1 ratio, . This is based on the presumption that not all ponds will be successful for newts.  Sometimes enhancement of existing ponds is possible e.g. old overgrown ponds now unsuitable for newts. SUDS ponds or balancing lagoons are not suitable.  The pond needs to be specifically for the species.

– There will need to be new habitat created or enhanced at least equal in area to that lost and/or of a higher quality. Examples might include arable land being replaced by grassland or improved grass leys replaced by scrub and woodland.

– In general you will need a survey to see if there are newts already at the translocation site. Translocating newts into ponds with existing populations is not acceptable, as there is no net gain for the species, since they just compete with newts already there.

– The management of the site will need to be guaranteed “in perpetuity” – normally by a Section 106 agreement with the landowner.  This is clearly less complex where the land is within the blue line of the development site owner or even with the red line.

Trapping a site out can be a lengthy process and take over a year allowing for licence application and seasons.  Trapping will normally be for 60 suitable days, but with additional requirements for breeding ponds. Suitable days are normally during spring and autumn, when temperatures are warm enough but not too dry for the newts to move around. When conditions are not suitable ( e.g. there is no rain for several days or it is too cold ), then trapping nights become “invalid” and the period of time needs to be extended.  Thus 60 trapping nights could in reality extend over an additional nights say or be caught short by the autumnal frost or a summer drought.

Planning law says that the local planning authority have to assess whether a European Protected Species for a site is likely to be granted by Natural England ( e.g. Morge versus Hants and more recently Elsworthy Farm judgement ) prior to granting permission.

How does the licence work when developing a site?

You need to keep a copy of the licence on site, and you may be inspected by Natural England to see if you are complying with it – they can request to see this copy.  Certain works will be carried out or supervised by your licenced ecologist, but there will be other responsibilities resting on the client. Make sure all contractors coming on site are inducted on it, and stick to what it says. At the end of the works, you need to make a licence return to prove that they have been carried out, and monitoring of any new ponds is necessary to give some measure of success.

For great crested newt legislation, see this post.

Great crested newt nocturnal surveys off to a smooth start

Gravid female Triturus vulgaris

Female Smooth newt Triturus vulgaris

The newt surveying season has got off to a smooth start this year in 2015, once the weather had finally settled.

On our very first nocturnal surveys, we came across beautiful smooth newts like the one below. This is a heavily “gravid” female, which was evidently preparing to lay its bellyfull of eggs on submerged plants.  The species is smaller than great crested newts, shares its spotted belly, but lacks its dark warty skin.  The two species often live together in the same ponds, although the smooth newts are more widespread and seem to prefer shallower and smaller sites.

Hopefully next week we will find the first great crested newt of the season!

Great crested newt mitigation workshop, 17 April 2015

A one-day mitigation workshop is being organised by the Association of Wildlife Trust Consultancies at Hampton Nature Reserve [ aka Orton Brickpits ], Peterborough on Friday 17 April. It will be hosted by Dr Silviu Petrovan of Froglife with an exclusive chance to gain access to restricted areas.

Great crested newt fence This great crested newt was found during pitfall trapping in 2014 This 1m x 1mx 2m hibernacula has a rubble/log base to provide crevices for overwintering newts

What the workshop includes

The day will run from from 10:00 to 4:00 and be an informal series of short talks and discussions on newt mitigation and licencing, followed by a tour of reserve.

For you of who don’t know it Hampton / Orton Brick Pits is one of the largest great crested newt colonies in Europe and also one of the few SACs designated for its newt populations.  It is connected under a main road by big tunnels, the “Newt Superhighway”, which Froglife have researched using infrared cameras and other automated equipment to look at efficacy of this type of mitigation.

Find out more about the somewhat shocking results at the event, as well as a reveal about reptile translocations success elsewhere, and get the chance to exchange ideas on newt mitigation schemes.

We would also hope to set up the mentoring scheme for people within the WT’s and AWTC seeking mentoring to allow them to apply independently to Natural England for newt European Protected Species Licences.

Getting a place and costs

Attendance is open to all Association of Wildlife Trust member organisations and Wildlife Trust staff.  Places are limited to 15, so it will be first come first served.

Transfers from nearby Peterborough Station can be arranged.

Cost will be £30 including lunch.

To book contact us at Norfolk Wildlife Services on 01603 625 540.

Top 10 ecology tips for doing in the spring

Although it was cold (and gloomy with the eclipse ) this morning, the East Anglian wildlife thinks spring is in the air.  Blackbirds and song thrush are fighting over garden string for their nests, violets and celandine are in flower and we have found our first great crested newt eggs.

Inspired by a bit of spring fever,  we thought we would share out top ecology and wildlife 10 tips for 2015.

Enjoy the sunshine !

Bee on thorn blossom, March 2015

Bee on thorn blossom, March 2015

1. Watch out if felling trees

If you are doing any tree feeling or scrub clearance then you need to be very careful.  Birds have already started nesting and our prediction is that a mild winter will promote really quick breeding by most species.    If you have already missed the boat, then speak to us for advice on what to do and how to find out when they have left. You can find out how we have helped ENI Bacton here.

2. Don’t bother with eDNA tests for Great Crested Newts

eDNA tests were meant to be revolutionary for great crested newt surveys, by detecting small amounts of DNA in a pond, but have turned out not to be a damp squib. They have no more flexibility than normal nocturnal surveys, are more expensive per pond, and if you do find newts you need to do nighttime surveys anyway.  Plus if you don’t have kits and slots booked can take months to come back with a result. ADAS are pushing them hard and they do have some applications, but at present prices ask us if they are worthwhile.

3. Do book in your night time newt surveys

The key newt survey window is from April to May.  Miss the window and you might have missed the boat for the year………..ring us now and we will book it in for you.

4. Visit a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve.

The new Cley vistor Centre is being built if you want to see ( we did the landscaping plan for this). For spring flowers NWT Foxley Wood is the reserve par excellence to go.  All our profits go back to NWT so you can see where this is all being spent.

5. Buy a bird box cheep

It is actually too late to put up bird boxes as a rule.  Most species if not nesting will have already set up territories long ago.  However buying late spring may get you discounts as retailers realise they have too much stock.  We can recommend Wildcare for their excellent customer service and range of boxes, and they will sometimes haggle on larger orders. Even cheeper is making them yourself. ?…

6. Watch out for judicial review and planning appeals

A frequent feature of recent years has been challenges by developers or objectors to planning applications.   We see the same mistakes year after year by other ecology consultancy that make you think they have never read Morge versus Hants. If you think JR or an appeal might be in the air, and want your case looking at then come to us. We also offer a critique service for existing applications and an expert witness service for ecology.  Get us involved with ecology right from the start and reduce your stress.

7. Be nice to Natural England staff

There are serious delays to EPSL applications, and the roll out of the new agri-environment scheme has been repeatedly delayed, but the thin green line of Natural England staff continue to stoically slog away with their limited resources and chippa spirit, while there are now rarer than than stone curlews in Norfolk. Whenever we need their help, the staff do the very best they can,  and we recommend when you meet them offering them a strong cuppa and possibly a choccy biscuit for good measure. Well done you lot.

8. Think about green space for walking the dog

Recreational pressure on the ecology of coastal sites is an emerging issue in Norfolk and Norfolk authorities have commissioned another study similar to that leading to policy CP10 in Breckland.  We can help design development sites with sufficient provision for informal recreation, which also makes them a better place to live for residents and more attractive to buyers.  The layout of greenspace at Bradwell was designed as dog and people friendly with our help and helped overcome objections.

9. Do something small for bees

Right now thorn flowers are a great place for them, but bees are in decline, which is bad for them and bad for us.  The new “ecological focus areas” of  agri-environment will help them with special nectar rich mixes,  but planting the right flowers for summer can help them everywhere. You need to get planting soon though – if you want wildflowers we have a few recommendations.

10. Have a day off from the office and do something different

Join Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Try volunteering with Norfolk Wildlife Trust on one of their reserves, or learning about wildlife. You can go on a guided bird spotting walk on 5 April at Cley Marshes, where our new landscaping is nearly in place ( did we say that before – we are quite excited !) ….. If the boss has the money, then join NWT as a corporate member and get along to a corporate event.  Good for the heart, good for the soul.  Find out about events, here in the easy to use calendar : https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/whats-on/calendar



Great crested newts and the law

Legal protection

Great crested newts and their habitats are protected under both UK and European Law via the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and great crested newts are also classified as European Protected Species (EPS) under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended).   This protection applies both to the individual animals and to the places they live, so includes ponds and rough grassland used by them at different times of year.

Great crested newt

Great crested newt in the hand

You’re breaking the law if you:

  • capture, kill, disturb or injure great crested newts (on purpose or by not taking enough care)
  • damage or destroy a breeding or resting place (even accidentally)
  • obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places (on purpose or by not taking enough care)
  • possess, sell, control or transport live or dead newts, or parts of them
  • take great crested newt eggs

Some of these offences apply regardless of whether it was either as a result of a deliberate or reckless action (by not taking enough care ).  The offences are criminal and not civil and people suspected of carrying them out can be arrested for questionning by a police constable.

Using bright torches to look for newts is regarded as serious disturbance for great crested newts. All the Norfolk Wildlife Services team are able to carry out surveys for newts, because we have licences issued by Natural England, which we renew annually.

In order to carry out works (e.g. residential development and a change of land use) that might affect newts or newt habitat, you will need a licence from Natural England.  Before this can be granted  can take place, great crested newt mitigation may be required.

For more information about great crested newt mitigation and licences, see this post.

Further reading

Natural England provide a lot of helpful advice for developers and individuals who want to know more about protected species and the law.

If you want to read more around great crested newt protection, significant wildlife legislation includes:

  • Bern convention 1979 : Appendix III;
  • Wildlife & Countryside Act (as Amended) 1981 : Schedule 5;
  • European Commission Habitats Directive 1992 : Annex II and IV;
  • Conservation Regulations 1994 : Schedule 2;
  • Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW 2000).

In Bern 1979, the eponymous convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats took place to ensure the conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats. The UK ratified the Bern convention in 1982. The obligations of the convention have been put into national law by means of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

Similarly the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) are the transposition of the European Commission Habitats Directive 1992.

£50,000 pond restoration at Downham Market nature reserve

Norfolk Wildlife Services has been advising the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council on a £50,000 pond restoration project at the Willows Nature Reserve in Downham Market.

The Willows Nature Reserve County Wildlife Site is a fantastic area, adjacent to the pond restoration project area, with thick stands of common reed and bulrush. In 2007, water vole presence within the reedbed was discovered, showing the importance of this small site to fenland wildlife.

Working closely with the Borough Council, we have arrived at a plan, which will restore the pond by removing build up of silt, but not impact on existing wildlife such as reedbeds and water voles. The Fen Group, who have worked with us on a number of other projects, will be undertaking the desilting work under our method statement.  Further drainage work and pipework repairs in the nature reserve will also bring in rainwater and surface water from the reed bed and regulate the new levels within the pond.

Silt will often build up within old ponds and may require removal mechanically. However the silt needs a considerable area to put it in, meaning that area will be buried under nutrient rich slops. As such it needs to be made sure in pond restoration, that in restoring one habitat another isn’t destroyed. In this case, we were able to find an ideal location for a temporary bund to allow the silt to settle out.

Work has commenced and we look forward to seeing the results this summer with abundant fish and invertebrates.

You can read more about it on LynnNews.co.uk


Winter 2015 Newsletter available online


Our Winter Newsletter is available to download now as a pdf.

In this issue, our newsletter bring you highlights of some of our recent projects, changes to our team, and offer advice on key ecological dates not to miss in the spring. We look forward to working with you through 2015! Inside:

  • New winter homes for great crested newts, and new survey techniques for 2015
  • Creating habitats for feeding winter birds on solar farms
  • Creating a bespoke bat boudoir in downtown Bowthorpe
  • Getting stuck in the mud at Pope’s Marsh, Cley


Solar panels

Christmas greetings for 2014

Christmas 2014 team photoChristmas greetings from the team at Norfolk Wildlife Services !

We would like to wish everyone best wishes for the festive season and look forward to working with you in 2015.

Our Christmas card this year is Redwings from Robert Gilmor, who is a local wildlife artist, who has allowed our parent company Norfolk Wildlife Trust to use it copyright free as a Christmas fundraiser.

If you want you can purchase more of these cards online : https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/support-us/christmas-cards-2014 

[He also does some very nice prints – see NWTs corporate members Pinkfoot Gallery – http://www.pinkfootgallery.co.uk/painters-and-printmakers/robert-gillmor ]