We were commissioned by Househam Henderson to complete reptile presence/likely absence surveys of two adjacent plots of land in Folkestone, Kent. The surveys were required in order to inform a planning application for the proposed construction of industrial units on the site. Following the completion of the reptile surveys and the subsequent approval of the planning application, we were commissioned to design and implement a mitigation strategy for the reptile species present.
The reptile surveys were undertaken in September 2014 and involved laying a number of artificial refugia in the form of bitumen felt mats across the two plots. The bitumen material warms faster and retains heat for longer than the surrounding area and therefore provides excellent basking and refugia for reptiles which require an external heat source to regulate their body temperature. After the mats were allowed to ‘bed-in’ for a few weeks, seven visits were undertaken under suitable weather conditions for surveying for reptiles. During each visit the surveyors checked the mats and recorded any reptiles present, noting the species, sex and age class of all animals.
We used the information gained from the surveys to establish an approximate population size for each species within each plot. This information helped inform a mitigation strategy for reptiles and enabled us to work closely with Househam Henderson to design a strategy that achieved the objectives of the development whilst safeguarding the reptile species present and enabling the works to proceed in accordance with relevant wildlife legislation.
The surveys revealed that one plot supported good populations of both slow-worms and common lizards while the other supported a good population of slow-worms and an exceptional population of common lizards. The size of the plots and the design of the scheme meant that there was insufficient space within the plots to enable the reptile populations to be retained on site. The plots are also isolated within an industrial estate with no connectivity to suitable reptile habitat in the wider area. As a result, we worked closely with Househam Henderson to find an alternative site to move the slow-worms and common lizards to that would ensure the long-term sustainability and protection of the reptile populations.
After discussions with Dover District Council, Natural England and the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership, it was agreed that the reptiles could be moved to an allocated receptor site within the Folkestone to Etchinghill Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The SSSI offers ideal habitat for slow-worms and common lizards and is connected to equally optimal habitat in the wider landscape. It is also protected from development and is under a management regime that will ensure that suitable habitat for reptiles is maintained in the long-term. The translocation took place between July and October 2015 following the creation of log piles within the receptor site.
In total 379 reptiles were translocated to the SSSI from the two plots combined, resulting in the clearance of reptiles from the smaller plot and enabling the development to commence in this plot. The translocation within the larger plot is on hold over the winter while reptiles are hibernating and will re-commence in spring 2016 when they are sufficiently active to be re-located.