Water Vole Surveys

Water Vole Survey

Water Vole Legislation                                   

Water vole (Arvicola amphibius) is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), in respect of Section 9(4) (as amended) and by the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000. This makes it illegal to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which water voles use for shelter or protection, disturb water voles while they are using such a place and to kill, injure or take a water vole from the wild.

The water vole is of conservation concern at a national level. It is listed as a Species of Principal Importance on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and is a Priority Species on the national Biodiversity Action Plan.


Implications for Development

The implications for proposed development works are that any activities should not result in the death or injury of a water vole or damage or destruction of water vole burrows/nests should they occur on site/or close vicinity. Measures to provide for water vole individual protection will need to be put in place if they are found to be present.

The presence of a protected species such as water vole on a proposed development site can be a major constraint to a project. To avoid possible costly delays to the development works programme and alterations to design plans we recommend protected species surveys such as water vole surveys are carried out at the earliest opportunity.

Triggers for a Water Vole Survey

The following items listed would likely trigger the need for a water vole survey: (i) the proposed development site provides potentially suitable habitat (such as watercourses) and/or (iii) the desk study data reveals there are previous water vole records for the site and/or within the close vicinity.


Water Vole Surveys and Mitigation

Many protected species surveys such as water vole surveys are best carried out or can only be carried out at certain times of year (see our Ecological Surveys Timetable).

The ideal time to survey for water voles is during the water vole breeding season, which runs from March to October, inclusive. Whilst water voles are breeding they are highly active and mark their territory with conspicuous piles of droppings, called latrines. Outside the breeding season, the level of activity falls and the number of signs decreases, making it more difficult to confirm absence, as a lack of field signs could reflect a decrease in activity rather than a genuine absence.

A water vole survey would involve searching the banks of the watercourse for evidence of water voles following the standard methodology. This records the following signs: burrows, latrines, footprints, runs in the vegetation, grazed ‘lawns’, feeding remains and actual sightings. A habitat assessment would also be carried out. The survey would be carried out from within the water (where safe to do so) and on the banksides.

All our water vole surveys are carried out by professionally qualified, experienced and licensed ecologists. A licence is required to survey for water voles in Wales.

If water voles are found on the proposed development site we can provide the following further services:

  • Water vole survey report for the planning application.
  • Legal compliance advice.
  • Design mitigation measures to avoid/minimise the chances of harming water voles on the site.
  • Design compensation and enhancement measures to provide long-term replacement water vole habitat on the development site.
  • Site management and monitoring.


Our Experience

Udall-Martin Associates is a specialist ecological consultancy. Our ecology team has the skills and experience to carry out water vole surveys following standard methodologies and producing water vole survey reports to accompany planning applications. We also design and implement water vole mitigation and compensation measures on site to satisfy both planning authorities and statutory nature conservation organisations.


We hold nature conservation statutory agencies water vole survey licences.


Case Studies

We have carried out numerous water vole surveys and carried out mitigation works for a wide variety of clients and projects including for a power station in Nottinghamshire, housing developments in Derbyshire and Warwickshire, university development in Yorkshire, pipeline works in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, school projects in Derbyshire and a public house development in Lancashire. Examples of our previous projects can be found on our Projects Page.


Contact Us

If you suspect there are water voles present within your proposed development site and/or the type of development activities to be carried out would suggest that adverse impacts to water voles are possible, you will need to contact an ecological consultancy to provide specialist advice.

One of our team of qualified and experienced ecologists could attend your development site and conduct a water vole survey.

Udall-Martin Associates work throughout the UK and extensively in the West Midlands (Birmingham, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire), East Midlands (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland), South West (Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset and Devon), South East (Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire) and throughout Wales.

Discuss your project with us by calling 01684 540695 and we will provide specialist advice and quotations. We are offer a quality service at competitive rates.