In 2007, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) listed the Common Toad Bufo bufo as a priority species. Recent research suggests that toads have declined by 50% or more in central and eastern/south-eastern regions in Britain – Volunteer conservation action data reveals large-scale and long-term negative population trends of a widespread amphibian, the common toad (Bufo bufo).
The UKBAP is no longer an active strategy, and has been replaced by biodiversity strategies in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. While the UKBAP is no longer an active policy, species listed on the UKBAP have been incorporated into the new biodiversity strategies for each country.
As such the Common Toad is still a priority species in England under Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services and under section 41 of The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, where UKBAP species were recognised as of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity. Section 40 of the NERC Act 2006 requires all public bodies to have regard for biodiversity conservation when carrying out their function. This is commonly referred to as the ‘biodiversity duty‘.
In Scotland toads are a priority species under the Scottish Biodiversity List which is incorporated into Scotland’s strategy: 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity – A Strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland
Wales’s national biodiversity strategy Environment Strategy for Wales‘ also incorporates the NERC act and all species listed under section 41 are priority species. Wales incorporates its biodiversity duty into its planning policies via Technical Advice Note 5, Nature Conservation and Planning (2009) in section 6.5.2 and in sections 5.2.3 and 5.2.4 of Planning Policy Wales (PPW).
National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (England) (NPPF) makes statements that, if applied correctly, would result in a planning system that takes active measures to protect the habitats of toads from further decline and aim to minimise impacts on biodiversity and actually enhance, restore or add to biodiversity (NPPF, 109), thus minimising impacts on biodiversity “by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures“(NPPF, 109). This statement reinforces the need to protect natural habitats which provide routes for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of toads in the wider environment to provide greater resilience to current and future pressures.
The same applies in Scotland via Scottish Planning Policy (2010 (currently under review with a draft consultation in place since 2012)). Sections 126 and 147 state that “The presence or potential presence of a legally protected species is an important consideration in decisions on planning applications. If there is evidence to suggest that a protected species is present on site or may be affected by a proposed development, steps must be taken to establish whether it is present, the requirements of the species must be factored into the planning and design of the development, and any likely impact on the species must be fully considered prior to the determination of the application.”
Road developments that disrupt migration routes, breeding and land-based habitats can be harmful to toad populations. Specifically, direct and indirect toad mortality from roads is due to:
O Traffic mortality.
O Raised kerbs which prohibit toads from reaching the other side of the road and inadvertently guide them into drains/gully pots.
O Gully pots which toads fall into and cannot exit.
O Fragmentation of migration routes between breeding ponds and terrestrial habitats.
O Destruction of key habitats such as breeding ponds and terrestrial habitat during road construction.
All of these are in contravention of planning policies when they occur in new schemes or as a result of renewal works when the issues have been highlighted (NPPF sections 109, 114, 117 and 118) and the duty of care that Public bodies have as started under SPP, 127 and PPW 5.2.3.
By improving schemes through the correct application of tools such as tunnels, ponds, wildlife fencing and wildlife friendly kerbs as outlined in the department of transports Design manual for roads and bridges (applicable to all counties in Mainland UK), as well as anticipating negative impacts of amphibians being drawn to new sustainable drainage systems, the impact of new schemes and renewal projects can be greatly reduced.