Natural England has issued a news update on the submission and processing of EPS licence applications in England. Entitled "EPS Mitigation Licensing: Latest Developments – August 2010", the note is available as a pdf here.

Produced by Kevin Rye, NE's senior licensing specialist, the five-page document sets out a series of subtle changes that will take effect from 1 October 2010. The changes are hoped to streamline the licensing process, and shorten the period taken to turn around applications issued with a "minded to refuse" notice.

In future, if an application fails the 'Favourable Conservation Status' (FCS) test, the applicant will be notified sooner, before the process has run its full course. The FCS test is carried out by the relevant species specialist in (Jim Foster at the old Peterborough HQ for reptiles and amphibians), and then the application is returned to the licensing team in Bristol for application of the 'Overriding Public Interest' (OPI) and 'No Satisfactory Alternative' (NSA) tests.

At a time when licence decisions are taking 8-10 weeks or more, instead of the 6 weeks that NE aims for, the drive towards faster turnaround will be well received by ecologists and their clients.