Reptile Surveys for Development and Planning

Why are Reptile Surveys Required?

Reptile surveys are required for development on sites which may be inhabited by protected species of reptiles. Native reptile species are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). The six native species of reptile in the United Kingdom include the adder, slow worms, grass snakes, the common lizard, smooth snakes, and sand lizard. The latter two are European Protected Species, they are less common and are distributed mainly in the South.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is against the law to capture, intentionally injure, or kill any of these species of reptile, or to interfere with their places of protection or shelter. Additional legal protection is provided to breeding sites and resting places of the smooth snake and sand lizard under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. 

reptile surveys

Therefore, reptile surveys must be undertaken for development on sites which may possess habitats suitable for supporting reptiles. A survey will confirm whether reptiles are present or absent on the development site and whether reptile mitigation is required. A preliminary ecological appraisal may also indicate that a reptile survey should be undertaken if it is found that reptiles may be present on the site.

A local planning authority will take the information found in the survey into consideration when determining a planning application for planning permission. More guidance on reptile surveys has been provided by Natural England and can be found on the Government website

When to Survey for Reptiles

Reptile surveys should be undertaken when it is sunny and warm and within temperature guidelines. The best months to undertake these surveys are April, May, and September. The optimal time for surveys is during sunny days when the reptiles are more likely to be basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature.

Several survey visits are typically undertaken in order to ensure that the findings are accurate. Further visits may also be necessary to estimate the population size of reptiles in the area. It is important to note that reptile surveys should only be conducted by trained and licensed individuals, as disturbing reptile habitats or handling the animals without proper knowledge and equipment can cause harm to both the reptiles and the surveyor.

Where are Reptiles Usually Found?

Generally, reptiles are found in well drained, undisturbed, sheltered areas. Typical reptile habitats are usually found in south-facing sunny areas, such as grasslands, open woodlands, sand dunes, private gardens, and golf courses. Some reptiles, such as grass snakes can be found in damp areas such as bogs and brownfield sites.  Slow worms are quite often found in residential gardens as they are partial to a compost heap.

How are Reptile Surveys Carried Out?

Reptile survey methods can include daytime searches; this involves searching for these species of reptiles around edges of woodland or on piles of wood, where they can usually be found basking.

Surveying using artificial refuges is a recommended method for surveying reptiles. This involves laying out artificial refugia, such as corrugated metal or roofing felts, in suitable habitats on the site. Grass snakes and slow worms will usually be found under the refuges, and lizards may be found basking on top.

These survey techniques should be carried out on a minimum of seven occasions in appropriate weather conditions. This should help determine the presence or absence of any of these species; however, additional surveys may be required to determine population sizes.

How Can Collington Winter Environmental Assist?

Collington Winter Environmental are an experienced team of Ecological Consultants, providing a highly professional reptile survey service to developers on all types of projects. Our Ecology Director, Olivia Collington, has undertaken a variety of ecology surveys (including badgerswater volesbats and great crested newts) across the UK, in order to provide scientific reports for submission at planning.

We adopt a pragmatic approach to all sites, working with clients to find solutions and develop relationships. With current offices located in Greater Manchester and Dumfries, the team are well served to work nationwide. Over the years, we have built strong relationships with key stakeholders across the UK.

Contact Us

Registered Address

23 Bark Street East, 1st Floor, Bolton, BL1 2BQ

Cambridge Office

Future Business Centre, Cambridge Campus, Kings Hedges Road, Cambridge, CB4 2HY


Head Office: 01204 939 608

Dumfries Office: 01387 378208

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