We are always being asked, what happens if...
As part of our new We are always being asked series, we have put together a number of questions we are usually asked about Newts and the processes involved in surveying them. We hope you find it interesting and informative, but please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.
Yes, great crested newts (GCN) are terrestrial (live on land) for the majority of the year and are known to travel up to 1km to breeding sites. For development purposes any pond within 500m should be considered in a risk assessment for newts. This does not necessarily mean that all ponds within 500m need to be surveyed for the potential for newts in the area.
Are newts protected?
Yes, Great Crested Newts and their habitat are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), and The Conservation Regulations (The Habitat Regulations) 1994 (as amended), making it illegal to:
- Intentionally or deliberately capture, kill or injure great crested newts
- Intentionally, deliberately or recklessly damage destroy or obstruct access to any place used for shelter or protection, including resting or breeding places (occupied or not)
- Deliberately, intentionally or recklessly disturb great crested newts when in a place of shelter
- Sell, barter or transport a great crested newt or anything derived from it
Why are newts protected?
Great Crested newts are afforded some level of protection under the wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), making it an offence to kill, injure, or sell these animals.
They have protection as European Protected Species on in regulation 41 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. This protection makes it an offence to take or possess, intentionally or recklessly to disturb or destroy an occupied place of shelter.
They are protected due to the decline in their populations. The main factors in the decline include; deliberate filling in or destruction of ponds, pond loss through natural succession, and introduction of fish, chemical pollution and nitrification of breeding sites among others.
When do I need to consider GCN?
If you are considering any kind development or land change of use and your development area contains ponds then you certainly need to take GCN into consideration and contact an Ecologist as soon as possible. If no ponds are present but the area contains areas of rough grassland, scrub, and woodland then you should contact an ecologist to speak to them about the possibility of needing a Habitat Suitability Index survey (HSI). This is because GCN spend most of their time not in ponds but in their terrestrial habitats.
I want to develop a site with ponds or habitat suitable for GCN what do I need to do?
The first thing to do it speak to a suitably experienced ecologist who before making any decisions will want to come and conduct a Habitat Suitability Index score (HSI) on the development site. This survey will give the ecologist information on the habitat and allow them to make a basic impact assessment on the site based on the development proposals.
N. B. If you know you have GCN on site you will not need to get a HSI completed and instead move straight to having surveys.
An ecologist identifies that there will be an impact on GCN, what happens next?
Based on the HSI score the ecologist has identified that any GCN present or their terrestrial habitat would be impacted by the development. This means a presence/absence survey needs to be carried out to determine if GCN are present on site. This requires 4 surveys between mid March and mid June, with two of them to be complete between mid April and mid May.
If no evidence of GCN is found during these 4 surveys, a report will be written detailing this and you have 12-18 to begin development.
Why do I need to carry out 6 surveys instead of 4?
If GCN are found during the first four surveys a further two surveys need to be completed to carry out a population estimate. As you have GCN present on site you will need to apply to Natural England for a European Protected Species licence to carry out any works and for this you need to have the information gathered from 6 surveys i.e. a population estimate.
All the surveys have been done, what happens now?
Your ecologist, using the results of the surveys and population estimate, applies to Natural England for a licence. Once this has been granted the ecologist can begin setting out traps, as per the licence agreement, for removing GCN from the area. The licence agreement sets out based on the population estimate, a set number of days trapping must continue for with a number of clear days i.e. no newts trapped. Once trapping has been carried out in accordance with the licence agreement work can begin.
What do I have to do?
As the client you are responsible for any enhancement or mitigation measures contained within the licence and maintaining fences for a period of time set out in the licence. All enhancement or mitigation options will be discussed with your ecologist before the licence is sent off.