Processes and timescales for protected species licensing during the Covid-19 outbreak

Our advice in response to the Covid-19 outbreak is:

If you cannot work from home, look at the latest guidance from:

We only look after licencing applications for Wales. You will need to check the advice from other regions if you are carrying out survey work in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Contacting us

Our staff are now working from home, you can still contact us by email. We are available to discuss licensing queries with you via phone, email or other online facilities.

We expect that increased staff absences due to Covid-19 will reduce our capacity during these challenging times, despite our best efforts to minimise any disruption. We will use our emergency planning to maintain our activities as best as we can.

Our process for licence applications

There are no changes to our process for submitting a licence application. Please try and include suitable contingencies in your schedule of works to avoid having to seek an amendment.

Timescales for processing licence applications and amendment requests

We are still aiming to process licence applications and amendments within our service level agreements.

We are trying to minimise any disruption to our licensing application process. However, there may be times in which our service is more limited and delivering to the timescales proves difficult. Despite these challenges our licence applications are currently being issued within the normal time frames.

Please do not contact us to enquire on the progress of your application before the date shown on your licence acknowledgement email.

Survey work

Any survey work you had planned as part of a species licence application should only be carried out where necessary. You should continue to follow the social distancing guidelines from the government.

We are not able to provide advice on surveying or attending site during the Covid-19 outbreak. You should follow government advice and liaise with your client to reach a suitable agreement.

You should complete your survey at the first available opportunity once the restrictions are lifted.

Surveys submitted in support of a licence application should be no less than two years old. When carrying out surveys you should follow the national guidance.

We recognise there could be some limitations to parts of your survey method. You should highlight and discuss these within your reporting.

If the survey limitations are causing significant constraint, please consider whether there is additional survey work or alternative approaches which may bridge this shortfall.

If you have further question you can contact our species team.

Survey completion and constraints

In exceptional circumstances we may consider a scheme based on an enhanced mitigation package. This approach can only apply if all avenues have been explored and discussed within your report. They must also meet the three tests:

  • the purpose of the work meets one of those listed in the Habitats Regulations
  • that there is no satisfactory alternative
  • that the action authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range

An enhanced mitigation package approach can only apply where there are limitations because of Covid-19.

Penalised for not being available to undertake the licensable work on site

Liability in such circumstances would be for a court to decide. You should ensure that you have informed your client that you have considered the government's Covid-19 advice. You should assess if your presence on site would be appropriate and you should highlight this on the method statement.

Extending your licence

We recognise that these are challenging times and as a direct result of Covid-19 original work timeframes may be forced to change. You may apply for an extension to your licence setting out in full the reasons for the delay. You may notice that your amended licence is subject to some extra or varied conditions. Please adhere to these.

Apply for a new application or amendment to the licence

We will consider extending licences for a meaningful period to enable completion of work.

Consultants should ensure that suitable alternatives are included within the licence application. You should address this in the relevant part of your method statement in case the work cannot be completed as expected.

The aim is to ensure that species needs are met alongside your development plans and timescales. We also need you to meet the criteria set out in law, including that there will be no detriment to the favourable conservation status of the population in their natural range.

Our view on IUCN Bat Specialist Group and risk to other mammal species

You may be aware that the IUCN Bat Specialist Group have made some recommendations about field work. These involve close contact with bats. We recognise that this is a serious potential issue and survey work may need to be adapted to reflect this. We are considering this further with the relevant Health Authorities and will provide an update on this in due course.