Water voles, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it a criminal offence to injure, damage or disturb them. They like soft-shored banks for burrowing, wide swathes of soft vegetation growing from the banks and water and slow-flowing and relatively deep water courses.
Surveys of a development site for water voles are required if either:
- Known local distribution and historical records suggest their presence
- There is suitable habitat for water voles in or adjacent to it.
After these surveys we assess the impacts a development would have on water voles without mitigation measures . This can be used to support any relevant planning application or discussions with the drainage board or Environment Agency.
In most cases, you could avoid harming water voles by adjusting your planned work. If you can’t and will damage their habitats, you may need a licence from Natural England. Some displacement activity can be done under a class licence by a registered person; other activities will require a site-specific licence.
A licence will be required if development would need to displace water voles or if trapping and translocation is necessary. Any licence application needs to show an overall net conservation benefit for the water voles. For example, increasing the amount of habitat available to water vole population and/or improving the quality of habitat.
We can advise you on delivering water vole mitigation and licencing and anything else water vole related, please contact the NWS team: email@example.com