They are undertaken in three stages as detailed below and must include ponds within 500m of the site regardless of ownership.
Daytime assessment known as Habitat Suitability Index (HSI)
Consisting of a 10 point system that generates a score, allowing for the likelihood of GCN to be established. If a score of 0.5 or above is calculated a stage 2 survey will be required. The HSI is not a definitive assessment of the pond, recent research suggests that low scores do not mean GCN will not be present, whereas higher scores are more reliable.
The pond is surveyed at stage 1.
Environmental DNA (eDNA)
It is now possible to take water samples and have a lab check for GCN DNA. If you need a definitive ‘yes or no’ to whether GCN are present – please send in a request for a quote for this service – eDNA kits are obtained from a lab and you require one kit per pond/waterbody + courier fees and sampling time.
Dusk and dawn assessment
Consisting of surveyors searching for GCN utilizing several standard methods that include funnel trapping (bottles or similar), egg searching, torch searching and refuge searching. This information allows the species, population and GCN use to be established.
A minimum of four visits must be undertaken between mid-April and mid-May and a further two visits, if GCN are found to be present, before mid-June.
If GCN are found to be present stage 3 Mitigation/European protected species licence will be required.
Refuge design – Source – GCN mitigation handbook (2001)
Mitigation and/or Natural England Protected Species Licence
This stage is undertaken post granted planning consent. It usually consists of providing replacement habitat (including ponds if being removed), terrestrial habitat and compensating for the loss of feeding and hibernation areas that is being utilized by GCN.
A licence is required when an offence under the habitats directive (The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.) and wildlife and countryside act 1981 (as amended) cannot be avoided e.g. damaging a GCN habitat.
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