Here you will find information about the services the council provides to look after protected sites and species.

Find out how we work to conserve our natural environment, including protected species and habitats.

Biodiversity Net Gain
Following the enactment of the Environment Bill in November 2021 we have entered a two-year transition period before most planning applications will need to demonstrate a net gain of at least 10% in biodiversity value, based on a metric published by Defra. The Planning Service has received a number of enquires asking how we intend to handle biodiversity net gain during this transition period and so we thought it helpful to produce a position statement. This will be updated periodically over the next two years. If you have any questions about biodiversity net gain, please contact David Feige, Environment and Design Team Manager & County Ecologist ( View the Biodiversity Net Gain Position Statement
Northumberland has a very special natural environment and we want to ensure potential developments take this into account, preserving and enhancing its natural environment.

Our role
We ensure conservation matters are taken into account: We also:
  • offer specialist advice where proposed developments affect the natural environment of the county
  • encourage pre-application discussion to provide information earlier in the process
  • consider the impact of development on species and sites of ecological value
The importance of nature conservation
Biodiversity is protected by a range of legislation and policies within:
A range of species are protected under national and international legislation. Find out below which species we have and what to do if you have concerns about them.

What is classed as a protected species?
Some of the species found in Northumberland that receive high levels of protection include:
  • bats
  • otters
  • great crested newt
  • red squirrel
  • freshwater pearl mussel
  • water vole
There are other animals and plants that are also protected to varying degrees, including all wild birds, their nests and their eggs.

Further information can be found on the website.

A longer list of species and habitats are included in the government’s lists of species and habitats of principal importance in England, and public bodies must have regard to the conservation of such species and their habitats. JNCC provides more details here.

All species of bat and their roosts are protected.

If you have bats roosting in your house causing you concern, or you’re planning any repairs or maintenance, you can call Natural England for free advice on 0845 1300 228.

If you have seen a red or grey squirrel in Northumberland, then Red Squirrels Northern England would like to hear from you.

There’s an online reporting form and contact details on the Red Squirrels Northern England website here.
Sites can be protected in a number of ways, depending on their importance for species and habitats. Two types are below.

Sites of special scientific interest
These are legally protected sites of national importance for nature conservation.

Some receive additional protection under international law, through designation as special protection areas, special areas of conservation and Ramsar sites. Local wildlife and geological sites
These are non-statutory sites of county or regional importance, designated by a partnership of public bodies and wildlife organisations. These include the council, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Northumbrian Water.
These surveys often need to be submitted with planning applications, so important habitats and species are taken into account in the planning process.

The survey process
If a proposal could affect important ecological features, the applicant is required to commission relevant surveys and assessments.

This enables the council to evaluate the impact of the proposal, in accordance with the requirements of planning legislation and policy.

If important features are likely to be harmed, the applicant will need to consider the extent to which harm could be avoided by amending the proposal or, if this is not possible, the extent to which harm could be mitigated or compensated for.
Many surveys can only be taken at certain times of the year because many plants are only visible for part of the year and many animals are only active or resident in Northumberland for part of the year.

It is therefore important developers consult the council regarding ecological survey requirements as soon as possible, so seasonal constraints do not cause delays.
Links to organisations providing information on ecology
  • Northumberland Wildlife Trust is a charity dedicated to wildlife conservation and environmental education in Northumberland.
  • The Environmental Records and Information Centre North East is the ecological data centre for North East England. It collates and holds data, which is used to inform nature conservation, and provides it to environmental groups, ecological consultants and others who require it for legitimate environmental purposes.
  • Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the government department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental, food and rural issues. Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and the Marine Management Organisation are all responsible to Defra.
  • Natural England is the public body whose purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings.
  • The Environment Agency is the public body with particular responsibility for flood management, water quality, waste management, pollution control and freshwater fisheries.
  • The Forestry Commission is the public body with responsibility for protecting and expanding Britain’s woods and forests and for managing public forests.
  • The Marine Management Organisation is the public body responsible for marine planning, fisheries and marine regulation.
  • MAGIC is a government web-based interactive map to bring together geographic information on key environmental schemes and designations in one place.
  • Cross Border Currents is the website of the Berwickshire and Northumberland Marine Nature Partnership.