9th July 2020

We recently became aware of an ENDS report detailing an interview with Marian Spain, the Chief Executive of Natural England, suggesting that the District Level Licensing approach that has been applied to great crested newts may be extended to other species, including bats. We have been working with Natural England on strategic approaches to licensing for bats (for example the Earned Recognition Project with Natural England and the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management) for a number of years and have been clear that the District Level Licensing approach applied to great crested newts cannot be applied to 18 different species of bat which are long-lived and have permanent places of abode (the legally protected roost). We therefore sought clarification from Natural England regarding the content of the ENDS report and were provided with the following statement from Marian Spain:

“Natural England is keen to use its powers to innovate with new licences that we hope will bring significant gains for wildlife and contribute to our overarching goal for Nature Recovery in England. District level licensing (DLL) is one such innovation designed to enhance habitat creation for great crested newts. Working at a population scale we are issuing licences to encourage housing developers to pay for new habitat for great-crested newts, creating far more ponds for these animals than those being lost due to the construction of new homes and ensuring long term management is funded. This blog explains a little more about this scheme and its successes. Natural England sees a more strategic approach to some our legally protected species as a key route to securing greater outcomes like this. Over the next year we will be exploring which species might be benefited through a more strategic approach to licensing and, in partnership with experts and practitioners, how this might be achieved. This is not a simple lift and shift of DLL but a more considered bespoke approach. This is especially important where we consider 18 species of bats for example and their considerable variation and complexity.”

Natural England has contacted ENDS and the previous report has now been corrected.

Natural England has also posted a blog in relation to this important issue https://naturalengland.blog.gov.uk/2020/07/03/building-greener/