​​European Protected Species Licences & How To Get One

If you have development work planned that could impact on European protected species, you’ll need a mitigation licence to prevent your activity being viewed as illegal. So what are European Protected Species licences and how do you get one?

Protected Under Law

In 1992, a diverse list of species in Europe gained protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. The list of European Protected Species (EPS) can be found in Annex II and Annex IV, made up of animals and plants both. The natural range of the species concerned, meaning the areas where the species live and breed independently, extends to Great Britain.

Regardless, this protection is lifted for those who have a European-protected species licence.

  • Impact – All actions from disturbing a protected species to killing are permitted.
  • Habitat Impact – Licensed personnel are permitted to damage a protected breeding site.
  • Obstruct Access – Blocking access to areas of rest and shelter.

These licences are not given out freely, of course, and only when development of an area believed to be inhabited by European protected species.

It’s also known as a mitigation licence, and it comes with many considerations, ensuring the development works don’t affect protected species, or at least mitigate the amount of harm that may result.

How many European protected species are there?

There are over 1,200 European protected species across Europe. In the UK, there are over 100 species. The following are examples of EPS that you’re more likely to run into:


Species Type Conservation Status (UK)
All bat species Mammal Varying (some endangered)
Otter Mammal Near Threatened
Hazel dormouse Mammal Vulnerable
Great crested newt Amphibian Least Concern
Natterjack toad Amphibian Endangered
Sand lizard Reptile Vulnerable
Smooth snake Reptile Vulnerable
White-clawed crayfish Invertebrate Endangered
Floating water-plantain Plant Vulnerable
Shore dock Plant Least Concern


How do you get a European protected species licence?

Three sets of criteria must be met before a licence is granted, and even then, the licence only applies for a set duration.

Licensable Purpose

All licences are given for a set purpose that will extend over a while.

  • Preserving Public Health and Safety – Sometimes, protected animals can occupy habitats in or around areas, and partake in habits that may cause harm to humans. For example, removing and relocating a badger nest found beneath a children’s playground.
  • Preventing Damage – If infestations or habitation within a property that may cause damage to it, such as bats within a historic building or grey squirrel nests impacting timber production.
  • Research – Research done on protected species is usually done to enhance favourable conservation status, such as installing radio-tracking studies on natterjack toads, informing their movements and habitat requirements.
  • Public Interest Preservation – Sometimes, development in certain areas with protected species is considered too important to pass up. For example, high speed rail. This example of a development site has the status of “overriding public interest”, meaning the benefits humans gain from the plan will outweigh the negatives done to the protected species.
  • Beneficial Consequences of Social or Economic Nature – If the development site offers contribution towards the species protected, or even those not protected, then it’s likely of a purpose that will only aid wildlife.

No Satisfactory Alternative

Planning permission dictates that development sites should only be constructed if there are no satisfactory alternatives. The types of things the assessor would look for is:

  • Alternative Location – If protected species could be protected better by building in a location that isn’t inhabited, then you would need to sufficiently argue that other locations cannot work. Such as, for example, contamination or flood risks in other proposed development locations.
  • Alternate Design – If a design could be altered to accommodate or avoid European protected species, then you’d be expected to incorporate these changes.
  • Alternate Construction – Not all construction methods are equally environmentally friendly. If you wanted to install pipework through an area inhabited by reptiles, for example, it may be proposed that you use trenchless technology to minimise disturbances.
  • Alternate Timing – Animal behaviour changes by the season, sometimes not by choice. If development works can minimise damage to protected species by changing the timing of the construction, such as outside of spawning seasons etc, then this will be a possibility raised.

Favourable Conservation Status

Many habitat regulations, such as the habitats directive, scottish natural heritage or natural england, want to ensure that european protected species are in a state of “Favourable Conservation Status”. This means that all protected species should be:

  • Population Size – The population of the species must be large enough for long-term viability. This means that there should be enough habitation, food, and breeding to ensure their survival.
  • Distribution – The species should not be in a fragmented or declining state.
  • Habitat – Any habitats of the species concerned must be in good condition, and large enough to support healthy populations.
  • Future Prospects – There should be no imminent threats to the species’ continued survival.

Whilst the developer is not expected to institute FCS from the ground up, they are expected to work alongside already implemented measures to strengthen or maintain FCS during and after development. 

Need help with a European Protected Species License? 

If you are planning on carrying out any development works that will interfere with protected species, get in touch to discuss your options when it comes to protected species licence applications. 

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