Natural England looking to double the number of councils operating new newt licensing initiative

Government advisory body Natural England intends to more than double the number of local authorities involved in a programme to allow developers to compensate for the loss of great crested newt habitats via a one-off up-front payment, it has been announced.

Female and male great crested newts - image: Wikimedia / Bouke ten Cate (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Female and male great crested newts - image: Wikimedia / Bouke ten Cate (CC BY-SA 4.0)

According to a joint statement issued last week by Natural England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), there are currently 77 local authorities across England operating the new district-level licensing scheme.

The scheme is intended to ease the consents process around developments likely to impact on great crested newts and other amphibians, whilst also boosting the numbers of habitats for them.

Planning reported on the pilot for the scheme three years ago.

According to the statement, the scheme requires developers to invest in four times the number of pond habitats that would have been impacted by their construction projects. It covers the creation, restoration, maintenance and monitoring of ponds over a 25-year period, the statement said.

Previously, the statement said, landowners and housing developers in these areas had to apply for a licence before building on or around newts' habitat on a site-by-site basis.

It added that "seasonal restrictions led to delays and uncertainty over the costs and scheduling of planned development".

The statement said that a district licensing scheme in Essex has led to the creation or restoration of 40 ponds since its launch this March.

The statement added that Natural England is now working to expand the initiative to 150 local authorities across the country, as part of a programme funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Essex Planning Officers Association chairman Jeremy Potter said: “The new scheme provides a real partnership approach to provide great new habitat for great crested newts, crucially in the right locations, whilst also providing a simpler, quicker and more effective option for developers to fulfil their important obligations.”

Essex County Council natural environment manager Neil Harvey added that the scheme “also provides an opportunity to start working with a range of partners – corporate, public and private – with whom we can progress wider ambitions for the strategic recovery of biodiversity throughout the landscape”.

Natural England’s West Anglia area manager Aidan Lonergan said: “This scheme is one example of how a fresh look at the relationship between wildlife and the growth agenda might achieve more harmony.

“It illustrates our ambition to find ways to work with development at a landscape scale, in order to restore nature and not merely slow its rate of loss, as well as ensure new developments are built greener from the outset.”

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