Developers with sites in Kent now have a new way of addressing the issue of the presence of the protected species Great Crested Newt. Natural England has launched a District Level Licensing scheme which largely negates the need to submit survey data for this species with planning applications. This can overcome seasonal survey restrictions which can beset schemes and allows sites to be moved forward out of season where no data is held by the developer on the local Great Crested Newt populations.
Instead, the District Licensing scheme adopts a risk based approach determined by the ponds and habitats in the vicinity of the site. To determine the level of risk the site poses to Great Crested Newts, it is necessary to complete an initial enquiry form and send this to Natural England which is used to calculate the effect of the development on Great Crested Newt habitat. Natural England will assess the information and issue an Impact Assessment (IA) and Conservation Payment Certificate (CPC) document.
This assessment will detail the cost of proceeding down the District Licensing route, which will vary from site to site depending on the risk level. If the cost is seen as commercially preferred the District Licensing route can be pursued. If however the cost is unfavourable, a standard approach of conducting Great Crested Newt surveys of waterbodies in the vicinity, followed by standard licensing protocols can be followed.
Should District Licensing be pursued, an initial payment is required to join the scheme pre-planning. A copy of the countersigned agreement must then be included with the planning application.
Once planning permission is granted, it is then necessary to apply for a Great Crested Newt District Level Licence. A reasoned statement to justify the need for the development and to evidence that there is no satisfactory alternative to the planned activity must also be provided at this stage to support this application.
Once a District Level licence is granted for the scheme, in most cases development can then proceed without the need for significant further mitigation. In some instances, where high populations of Great Crested Newts are present, additional mitigation will be required, albeit the duration of this will be reduced compared to if a standard licensing route had been followed.
For more details in regard to District Licensing in Kent click here.
Other District Licensing schemes are in operation across the authorities of Woking, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury Vale, Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and Oxford City. These operate in a different way through a partnership model. Please contact Aspect Ecology for more details.