During our initial site investigations we carried out thorough ecological surveys to determine if any protected species or habitats were present on the site, and found evidence of grass snakes and badgers.
Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act, 1992, which makes it unlawful for either an animal or its sett to be disturbed or damaged, while grass snakes are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 against intentional killing and injury. It was important that we developed a strategy to ensure that the remediation works could continue without causing harm to either of these protected species.
Grass snake mitigation
We have been clearing the site vegetation in stages and at the time of year when reptiles are not hibernating. Once the vegetation was removed, the ground was made unsuitable for the needs of the grass snakes to ensure that they do not return whilst the works are being carried out. This part of the works has now largely been completed.
As part of the restoration process, suitable habitat will be provided to ensure that the grass snakes are able to recolonise the remediated area, and populations are expected to increase as a result of the work.
We needed to close the badger setts in the remediation area to protect the badgers from harm during the works. We carried out a further survey of the remediation area and the surrounding land before applying for a licence from Natural England. The licence allowed us to close the setts down in stages over a period of two years. This involved placing one-way gates over the sett entrances to allow badgers to exit but not to re-enter the setts. The closing of setts has proved successful and no badgers were found when the setts were finally excavated.
A new artificial sett has been created as part of the licence and badgers have been recorded investigating this during monitoring.