How do charges for Natural England licences work?
Following on from our last blog post, which focused on changes to great crested newt licensing, in this post we take a look at changes to license fees in relation to protected species. As a reminder, a licence is needed when proposed works have impacts on a protected species that would, in the absence of a licence, be illegal. Penalties for contravening legislation, comprise unlimited fines and up to six months in prison.
Natural England are the government’s advisory body with regard to the natural environment. They are also responsible for the issuance of licences. In recent years, there have been significant problems with the resourcing of this service, which has led to backlogs in licence applications being processed. In order to address this issue, there has been an overhaul of the licensing system, including the development of charges, which are currently being rolled out – the service had previously been funded by the taxpayer.
The introduction of charges was enabled by The Wildlife Licence Charges (England) Order 2018, which came into force in October 2018, followed by Natural England’s new wildlife licensing service. As well as streamlining the process – improving turnaround times etc. – a proportion of the additional funding will be used for compliance monitoring. Charges mainly affect licences issued under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
The implementation of licence charges is being undertaken in a phased manner – the first release took place in April 2019. Charges currently apply to bats and hazel dormice; the intention was to implement charges for badger mitigation licences in July 2019, but due to ongoing issues concerning a backlog of licence applications, this date has been put back. Licence charges for great crested newts are scheduled for release in November 2019 (date correct at the time of writing).
So how does it work?
Projects are now categorised into simple and complex, with charges varying accordingly. A fixed fee applies to simple projects and an hourly rate applies to more complex projects. In addition to this, there is a charge towards compliance monitoring.
As an example, in the case of bat mitigation licence A13, the charges comprise £500 for a simple project, an hourly rate of £101 for complex projects, and an additional charge of £183 for compliance monitoring.
As of 1 July 2019, charges have also been introduced for modifications to existing bat and dormice licences.
There are instances where exemptions to the charges are applicable; these include: conserving a bat roost(s) in situ; preventing the spread of disease; preserving public health and safety; nature conservation purposes; and the conservation of historic buildings.
It is important that the need for a licence in relation to a project is identified early on in the scheme’s development in order for surveys to be undertaken in a timely manner, their findings incorporated into a project’s design and programme, and a licence application prepared and submitted as required. Our ecologists are able to take you through the licensing process: advising on the most appropriate route; liaising with Natural England, where necessary; plus preparing and submitting an application. Please get in touch for further information and advice.