Natural England has announced that Cambridgeshire will join its district level licensing initiative to protect the Great Crested Newt. The initiative is designed to better protect the iconic species while also enabling developers and local authorities to more easily deliver on their investment and home-building plans.
Great crested newts are the UK’s largest species of newt. Despite being protected under UK and EU law, the species suffered the loss of around 50% of its pond habitat in the 20th century
In the past, landowners or housing developers in Cambridgeshire had to apply for a licence before building on or around the newts’ pond habitat – on a site-by-site basis. This missed opportunities to manage populations of great crested newts on a landscape scale and resulted in habitat for newts being squeezed around development, sometimes in disconnected patches.
Now, licensing is applied at a district level. This ‘landscape-scale’ approach means that developers need only make a single application and payment to join their local, area-wide scheme. The one-off payment covers the creation, restoration, maintenance and monitoring of ponds around the area for 25 years, in locations specially chosen to provide the best habitat and most benefit.
Individual site-by-site licences are still available. However, since 17 February 2020, there is now a charge for these licences. In areas such as Cambridgeshire where there is a district level licensing scheme, Natural England advises that joining it will be the quickest option available to enable landlords and developers to start work on developments that affects great crested newts.
Natural England is working on the new licencing initiative in partnership with Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group for the Eastern Region, local authorities including South Cambridgeshire District Council, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Wildlife Trusts including that for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, and more.
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the Hewitsons’ Planning and Environment Team