Southern Water has been awarded an organisational license allowing it to receive faster approval for engineering projects that may affect the habitats of rare or protected species.

The license was granted by Natural England in acknowledgement of the company’s strong track record of protecting vulnerable wildlife including dormice, badgers and crested newts.

An organisational licence can be awarded to a business if it undertakes an activity that is regular and routine and affects one or more protected species. This means it is not required to apply for a separate licence each time it carries out that activity.

To get the licence, the company must show it has “consistently met the conditions of other types of wildlife licences in the past”.

Southern Water’s chief executive, Ian McAulay, said: “From a business point of view and investment in the environment, this will mean that work on key schemes will start sooner and there will be less bureaucracy but that is not the important point for me.

“We’re delighted to have this gesture of trust in our stewardship of the habitats and wildlife living in them.

“I am very proud that our efforts to be a friend of the environment and to stick to the best possible practice in everything we do has been recognised by Natural England.”

Andrew Smith, Natural England area manager for Thames, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight said: “Natural England is pleased to have worked with Southern Water over the last year to develop this organisational licence, which will benefit both Southern Water and Natural England by removing the need for numerous individual licences.

“The licence has been issued based on Southern Water’s experience in working with mitigation licences; avoiding impacts where possible and designing mitigation strategies that follow best practice for the species.

“The development of new strategic licences, such as this, is part of Natural England’s licensing improvement work to reduce our regulatory processes and we are hoping to work with more water utility companies.”

Three other companies that have been awarded a licence are South East Water, United Utilities and Northumbrian Water.