New approach to great crested newt licensing
A fresh approach to the conservation of great crested newts is to be rolled out across England, having been piloted by Woking Borough Council in Surrey. The move is aimed at improving the licensing process for housing developers by surveying areas where the newts are most prevalent, mapping the potential impacts of development, and proposing local conservation strategies for the species, in partnership.
Great crested newts are rare across Europe, although can be locally abundant in the UK. They are protected by law, meaning that disturbance or damage to the newts or their habitat requires a European protected species licence. However, in May 2016, Woking Borough Council was awarded an organisational licence, allowing it to authorise operations that may affect great crested newts on development sites at the same time as planning permission.
This removes the need for expensive surveys prior to building works and individual licences to disturb newts if they are present. As part of the project, great crested newt habitat should be enhanced or created prior to any development taking place, saving developers time and money and hopefully making newt populations more healthy and resilient.
Stephen Trotter, director of The Wildlife Trusts England, comments: “The Wildlife Trusts support the aims and objectives of the new approach. We strongly agree that everyone’s priority should be to create new, joined-up habitats which will help the population of this fantastic species to recover. The Wildlife Trusts will work closely with Natural England to ensure the roll-out of the new approach is a success.”