UES have completed reptile presence / absence surveys and population size class assessments at four schools across Kent. The schools are set to be replaced by new facilities, with one school already demolished and the others set to be demolished in the near future. The new school facilities will help the children within their local communities to reach their potential with regards to education and social development. Previous preliminary ecological appraisals had highlighted the need for further reptile surveys to determine whether reptiles are present on site. UES were commissioned to carry out this survey work in August 2014

In the UK we have six native species of reptiles; three lizards and three snakes: Common lizard (Lacerta vivipara), Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis), Grass snake (Natrix natrix), Smooth snake Coronella austriaca and Adder (Vipera berus). All reptiles are protected in the UK against intentional killing, injuring and trade. Smooth snakes and Sand lizards are also afforded additional protection under European legislation.

Reptiles often find refuge under hibernacula, which can take the form of a number of materials, such as log piles or discarded building materials. They use this shelter for cover and to heat up; reptiles are ectothermic, meaning that regulation of their internal temperature is largely influenced by their external surroundings. As such, part of a reptile survey involves deploying artificial refugia, which offer attractive microhabitats for any reptiles present locally. These refugia are checked for reptiles during a total of seven site visits. Additionally, a walkover survey is conducted, examining suitable basking places and searching under in situ refugia. The results of the survey can then confirm the presence or absence of reptiles on a site.

UES recorded reptiles at all four school sites. Reptiles found included Common lizard, Grass snake and Slow-worm. Every survey we undertake is an opportunity to examine the local wildlife, and during these surveys we also observed a Barn owl (Tyto alba) and an outlying Badger (Meles meles) sett.

Due to the presence of reptiles further surveys were undertaken to establish the population size. This is required by the Local Planning Authority in order to assess the potential effect on reptiles as a result of the development. After careful consideration of the presence / absence survey results and the development boundary, UES were able to liaise with the Local Planning Authority and avoid further survey work at one of the schools.

UES completed the further survey work in September and October 2014. We found low to good sized populations, with one site qualifying as important due to the fact that three species were found to be using it. These results will inform mitigation and compensatory measures, which will ensure that reptile species present on site will be safeguarded during the development. These measures may include the use of habitat management, reptile fencing, trapping and relocating individuals to suitable receptor sites.