Water voles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended.) Currently legal protection makes it an offence to:
- Intentionally, kill, injure or take (capture) a water vole
- Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which water voles use for shelter or protection;
- Disturb water voles while they are using such a place
Penalties for such offences carry a maximum term of imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine of £5,000 or both. In addition, the courts may order the forfeiture of any vehicle or other thing that was used to commit the offence.
There are no licenses available to permit damage or disturbance to water vole habitat for the purposes of development however there is a defence in law where reasonableness must be demonstrated i.e. if it can be demonstrated that any action that would otherwise have been an offence was the incidental result of an otherwise lawful operation and could not reasonably have been avoided, this constitutes a defence against conviction but it would be a matter for the courts to decide what constitutes reasonable actions.
Whilst there are no development licences per se it is possible to obtain Natural England licenses for conservation purposes and where water vole habitat is likely to be destroyed and translocation is the only option this type of licence may be relevant.
Greenwillows Associates personnel have many years of survey experience in the field searching for signs of water vole, presence/absence as well as translocation schemes under licence.
In many watercourses a boat-based survey is the only practicable methodology. Greenwillows Associates possesses a shallow draft punt with outboard motor which is capable of navigating most water courses and has often been used with good effect in surveying for water voles.
Our checklist of services which complies with national best practice standards includes: