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26/02/2020

Scheme to protect great crested newts extended

Words: Laura Edgar
Great crested newt / iStock-1090118514

Natural England has rolled out a ‘strategic approach’ to great crested newt licensing across 37 local authorities to better protect the amphibian.

The scheme is for Essex, Wiltshire, Shropshire, Greater Manchester, south Midlands and parts of Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Although they are protect under UK and EU law, the population of great crested newts has declined in the past 60 years. Natural England said approximately 50 per cent of ponds in the UK were lost in the 20th century. The traditional licensing system focuses on preventing harm at individual development sites rather than the wider health of populations of great crested newts.

Under the ‘District Level Licensing’ (DLL), landowners and housing developers are required to apply for a licence before they undertake building work in the vicinity of the species' pond habitat.

The scheme better protects the amphibian by working at a landscape rather than at a site-by-site scale. Conservation payments from developers can be used to create new habitats in locations that will benefit the species.

It is already available across 32 local authorities in Woking, South Midlands, Kent and Cheshire. This latest roll-out extends it to a further 37 English local authorities, meaning developers and landowners will need to use it.

Natural England explained that the scheme would also benefit local people and authorities by “avoiding costly delays for developers, helping to ensure homes are built and local authorities can deliver their plans".

The scheme is already being successfully being adopted by developers across the country, said the government’s adviser on the natural environment.

Barratt Homes’ Chilmington Green Development, which aims to deliver over 5,500 homes, was the first development in Kent to join the scheme there. It will also establish six new ponds located in the best areas for great crested newts.

Jen Almond, Natural England’s licensing programme manager said: ‘“District Level Licensing is transforming an area of regulation from one that has been problematic for great crested newts and people into a real conservation success story.”

Paul Kitchingman, managing director, Barratt Kent, added that the scheme could provide the housebuilding industry with an “alternative offer that can both enhance ecological habitat and species protection, whilst enabling developers to rise to the government’s challenge of delivering new homes at pace”.

“Protecting nature and the local environment is a key priority for us and we are excited to be working at the forefront of such a pioneering scheme with Natural England.”

Natural England is working to make the scheme available across 150 local authorities as part of a programme funded by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Image credit | iStock

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