An innovative new approach to protecting the Great Crested Newt could enhance their population and reduce delays to major building projects. Natural England is launching a pilot project that will bring more flexibility to the licensing system for great crested newts, while providing more of the ponds which they favour.
The aim is to take a more strategic approach to the conservation of newts, ensuring that resources are focused on newt populations and habitat that will bring the greatest benefits to the species. At the same time it will make the licensing process much more straightforward for developers on sites where newts are present.
The new approach, to be trialled by Natural England and Woking Borough Council, will involve survey work to establish the size, location and connectivity of great crested newt populations. For this purpose, testing for traces of newt DNA (using the new eDNA technique – see Aspect Ecology news June 2015) in pond water has already been undertaken across Woking to establish where these amphibians live. The survey information will be used to produce a local conservation plan for the newts, which will retain, enhance and link up the most significant populations of newts, identify areas where development will have the least impact and specify where new habitat will be created to ensure a healthy overall population. The Council will put in place the new habitat, so that when development results in habitat loss, the habitat gains will already be in place to compensate. Where there are sites of high conservation value for great crested newts it is likely that developers will seek to avoid those areas.
This system will not only improve the habitat legacy for great crested newt, it has the potential to radically reduce delays and cost to developers of survey and setting up their own schemes to protect newts. See more at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pilot-project-aims-to-help-great-crested-newts