Environmental Management System
Protected Species Surveys
Habitat Surveys
Habitat Creation and Management
Licensing and Mitigation
Expert Witness

The presence of protected species is a material consideration when a planning authority is considering a development proposal. The presence of protected species and the affect of the proposed development must be established before planning permission can be granted.

As a guide line water vole surveys should be carried out when:

• Major proposals affecting or within 50m of any watercourses or associated ponds
• Minor proposals affecting or within 5m of any watercourses or associated ponds
• Proposed development affecting any locations where water voles are known to be present

Water Vole Surveys

In April 2008 the water vole (Arvicola terrestris) became fully protected under Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Making it an offence to:

• Kill, injure or take water voles
• Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place used for shelter or protection
• Intentionally or recklessly disturb water voles whilst occupying a structure or place used for shelter or protection

How are water vole surveys conducted?

Desk Study

An ecological record search should be carried out at the local record centre to establish any previous records of water vole sightings in the area.

Field survey

Surveys should be carried out from Mid April through to September. Water voles are rarely seen and so field surveys concentrate on finding characteristic signs of water vole rather than the voles themselves.
The banks of the watercourse are examined up to 2 metres from the waters edge. The surveyors will be looking for the following field signs.


Water vole faeces are 8-12mm long and 4-5mm wide. They are cylindrical with blunt ends. They are usually green in colour and are odourless (unlike rat)


Latrine sites are used to mark boundaries and favourite spots close to burrows. Latrines often consist of a flattened mass of droppings (which have been patted down) with fresh droppings on the top.

Feeding stations

Water voles often bring pieces of vegetation to feeding areas close to the water’s edge. The remains are left in neat piles and have a distinctive bite pattern.


Many different animals use burrows in river banks. Water vole burrows are typically wider than they are high, and usually have a diameter of 4-8cm. Well grazed areas are sometimes found close by where the water voles have eaten vegetation.


Many footprints are found along riverbanks but these are easily confused and not a reliable method of identification.

High water levels and heavy rain can destroy many of the field signs mentioned above. Surveys should ideally be timed to give the best chance of finding water vole field signs.

Case Studies

Phase 2a for High Speed 2 (HS2)

December 2016
Site: Phase 2a for High Speed 2 (HS2) - from the West Midlands to Crewe Client: Biocensus c/o Arup ##Project overview In spring 2016 UES were subcontracted ... more...

Phase 1 Habitat Survey in Winchester

November 2011
UES recently completed an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey of an old mill in Winchester. An Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey involves mapping the habitats on the ... more...

Extended phase 1 habitat survey in Deeside

August 2011
UES have completed an extended phase 1 habitat survey of a site in Deeside, North Wales in order to inform the client of any potential impacts their development... more...

Water vole survey in Tarbock, Liverpool

May 2011
Tarbock Hall is a 86 hectare parcel of land west of Liverpool on which developers intend to restore the dilapidated farm buildings as luxury houses, and also cr... more...

Great crested newt trapping scheme

November 2010
Project summary In 2008/09, UES were instructed to conduct a Great Crested Newt (GCN) mitigation scheme for Augean PLC at Slipe Clay pits in King’s Cliffe, n... more...

Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey Flintshire

May 2010
United Environmental Services have completed an Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey of a site near the town of Flint in North Wales. The site has been a dis-used br... more...

Tarbock Hall Golf Course

January 2010
Tarbock Hall is a 86 hectare parcel of land west of Liverpool. The land was used for agriculture until 2000 when it was sold to a team of developers who wanted ... more...

Water Vole Assessment

January 2010
##Overview UES were appointed by Gundy Excavations to carry out a series of Water Vole surveys in the Tarbock Green area of Merseyside. UES conducted an ‘Envi... more...