Natural England is working on a number of reforms to streamline licensing processes to make these more efficient both for customers and Natural England itself while still satisfying the three licensing tests. One area of licensing work that has been identified for review is the modification process for European Protected Species (EPS) mitigation licences. Natural England is looking specifically at modifications that do not alter Natural England’s conclusions on the purpose or no satisfactory alternative tests and importantly that would not impact upon the favourable conservation status (FCS) test of the species involved.
Each year a significant number of modification requests are submitted for relatively minor modifications to EPS mitigation licences. A decision has been made to include additional conditions on EPS mitigation licences to allow some flexibility in relation to changes to the timetable (great crested newts (GCN), bats and dormice) and to the licensable numbers (GCN only).
Licensable Activities Condition
This new condition will allow revisions to the programme of works, which changes the agreed work schedule where development works are subject to minor delays. The programme changes must meet a number of criteria in order to satisfy the requirements of the condition and therefore enable Natural England to conclude that the three licensing tests are still met. If the proposed changes do not meet all of these requirements a traditional modification request must be submitted for assessment. The key requirements of the condition are detailed in (a) – (d). The following notes provide further explanation on these requirements:
- The condition will only allow the extension of works where licensable activities will take place in the same chronological order and, in most cases, the same season. Season is considered to be spring (March, April, May), summer (June, July, August), autumn (September, October, mid-November), or winter (mid-November, December, January, February).
- The same clearance methodology as specified in the licence must be used. A modification request will need to be submitted if the clearance methodology changes.
- Habitat restoration, enhancement and creation works must be undertaken in either the same season (frequently this is timed for the winter season) or the same calendar year as originally proposed. If work is delayed beyond these timeframes, then a modification request will need to be submitted.
Changes to the programme of works must not result in any additional impact on any known or potential breeding sites or resting places, such as hibernation sites, as a result of timing changes. Additional impacts will require further assessment by Natural England to ensure that the FCS test continues to be met and therefore a modification request will need to be submitted.
The requirements set out in these conditions are imposed to allow Natural England to be satisfied that the FCS test continues to be met.