Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Biodiversity in the grounds of schools, colleges and universities

Biodiversity and conservation for the education sector

The UK government has committed to preserve our biodiversity in several international treaties. This is translated into action at the local level by the Local Area Biodiversity Plans (LABP) which are based on local council areas.

Your local council will have a biodiversity officer who should be the first point of contact for schools or further and higher education establishments wishing to conserve or enhance the biodiversity in their grounds or local community.

What you must do

Rare or protected species are protected wherever they are found. This includes:

  • bats
  • badgers
  • great crested newts
  • otters
  • water voles
  • some plant species
  • wild birds.

You are committing an offence if you disturb or harm protected species or if you damage any structure that they use as shelter unless you have a licence to do this.

The law protects all wild birds and their nests and eggs. You must not disturb birds' nests while they are in use. All species of bats and their roosts are protected whether bats are present or not.

This has implications for grounds management and for the maintenance and refurbishment of buildings.

If work proposed on your site could in any way harm protected species or damage structures used for shelter you should seek advice from your conservation body.

NIEA: Biodiversity

Scottish Natural Heritage

Our Nature Conservation guidance provides further information on protected species and the measures in place to protect them.

Nature conservation

In Scotland, the Nature Conservation Act requires all public bodies and office holders to further the conservation of biodiversity where possible in the course of their work. Schools and further and higher education establishments are considered public bodies for the purposes of the act.

Good practice

BS 42020: Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development

This new British Standard 42020 aims to integrate biodiversity into all stages of the planning and development process.

It is of relevance to professionals working in the fields of ecology, land use planning, land management, architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, forestry, arboriculture, surveying, building and construction.

BSI: Smart Guide to BS 42020

BSI: BS 42020 Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development.


Biodiversity is one of the eight topics that schools address when working towards the Eco-schools awards.


The Eco-schools programme aims to develop:

  • greater understanding of biodiversity
  • benefits in the understanding of scientific and technological concepts
  • experiences of the outdoors in the local community
  • quality of life in the school
  • making choices which benefit biodiversity, eg through resource use
  • national and global links for the school.

A number of organisations can help a school which plans to conserve or enhance biodiversity within the school grounds or the local community. The local council biodiversity officer will be able to provide advice and suggest useful contacts.

Find your local council

Useful links for schools

The Conservation Volunteers: Scotland

The Conservation Volunteers: Northern Ireland

Groundwork Charity (Northern Ireland)

Learning Through Landscapes Charity (Northern Ireland)

Grounds for Learning (Scotland)

The Woodland Trust

Further and higher education

The area of land managed by further and higher education institutions in the UK is roughly equivalent to the area of the Isle of Wight. Sensitive management of this land could have a real impact on the conservation of biodiversity. Establishing a biodiversity policy for the campus means that biodiversity is formally recognised and can be considered in strategic planning and decision making. This can bring a number of benefits including:

  • improved habitats
  • greater awareness of environmental issues across the institution
  • a healthier environment for students and staff
  • improved links and partnerships with the local community.

The Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) has produced a booklet which provides advice on:

  • how to organise biodiversity initiatives within your institution
  • the creation and maintenance of common habitats
  • information regarding current legislation, further guidance, and sources of funding for projects.

EAUC: Biodiversity guide

Useful links for colleges and universities

UK Biodiversity Action Plan

NIEA: Biodiversity

Scottish Natural Heritage

The Woodland Trust

The Conservation Volunteers

Wildlife Trusts

The Business and Biodiversity Resource Centre

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