Otters are a European Protected Species (EPS), and are protected under the Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
Local planning authorities have a duty to make sure that proposed developments will not affect the favourable conservation status of an EPS. This means that if a site has potential to support otter, and there is a possibility that a proposal may affect the species, the planning authority will need to receive a detailed survey report and mitigation proposals as part of a planning application.
Otters are widespread in Cornwall, and generally considered to be present within all river catchments in the county. Their home ranges will typically include running and standing water and associated habitats such as reed beds, riparian woodland and some coastal areas.
- Otters are mostly solitary animals, only meeting to mate – but young stay with their mother for 13 to 15 months
- Otters can breed through out the whole year but often have cubs in Spring and late Summer
- Otters can stay under water for up to 4 minutes
- There are 13 species of otter in the world, but only 1, the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is found within the UK
- Otters communicate with each other by clicking, twittering and spitting
- Young otters are not natural swimmers and have to be dragged into the water by their mother!
Will I need an otter survey?
You will need an otter survey if you plan to do a development which may potentially disturb an otter’s resting or breeding place, which are usually located around wetland such rivers, lakes, marshes etc. The survey will cover an area up to 100 metres of the site boundary and should be included as part of your planning application. Walkover survey of any sections of watercourse or standing water within a site will be undertaken to search for field signs (such as spraint, footprints and more importantly, potential resting and breeding sites). Only a qualified ecologist can undertake this survey for you.
What happens if you find otters using the site I wish to develop?
Whilst survey work needs to be undertaken before planning, it is usually recommended that such survey work is updated a couple of months before works start on site so that there is time to apply for an EPS licence, which would be required if there is to be any disturbance to a resting or breeding place.
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