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  • by Karma Loveday

Natural England issues first "strategic" licences for habitat safeguarding

Natural England has awarded a new type of strategic licence to four water companies for works which might affect the habitats of rare or protected species.

The new “organisational licence” will cut down on paperwork, and provide the water companies with access to a fast track approval process for relevant engineering works.

Southern Water secured one of the new licences in recognition of its high quality work protecting vulnerable wildlife, including dormice, badgers and crested newts. Andrew Smith, Natural England area manager for Thames, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight said: "Natural England is pleased to have worked with Southern Water over the last year to develop this Organisational Licence, which will benefit both Southern Water and Natural England by removing the need for numerous individual licences. The licence has been issued based on Southern Water's experience in working with mitigation licences; avoiding impacts where possible and designing mitigation strategies that follow best practice for the species.

"The development of new strategic licences, such as this, is part of Natural England's licensing improvement work to reduce our regulatory processes and we are hoping to work with more water utility companies.”

Southern Water said whenever it undertakes a new project, it conducts a careful ecological survey to analyse the wildlife living in the area. The emphasis is placed on sensitive or protected species and if precious animals such as great crested newts or dormice are found then no work starts until a careful plan to prevent and mitigate any possible damage to habitats. It will continue to carry out the same level of care and scrutiny and will continue to report on outcomes to Natural England.

Southern’s chief executive Ian McAulay said: "We're delighted to have this gesture of trust in our stewardship of the habitats and wildlife living in them. I am very proud that our efforts to be a friend of the environment and to stick to the best possible practice in everything we do has been recognised by Natural England."

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