Services

Great Crested Newt Surveys and Mitigation

The great crested newt (GCN) has a widespread distribution in lowland England and Wales but is less frequent in the far south-west and Scotland, in upland areas, intensively farmed landscapes and heavily urbanised areas. It is absent from Ireland. GCN have specific habitat requirements, spending much of their life-cycle in terrestrial habitats including areas of rough grassland, woodland and hedgerow, and returning to aquatic habitats – principally ponds – for the breeding season.

The breeding season for great crested newts, which coincides with the survey season, occurs almost immediately after they emerge from their winter dormancy. GCN are nocturnal and tend to emerge on wet, mild nights when the temperature has risen above 5°C. This usually occurs between February and April, though this is staggered and some newts will not reach their breeding ponds until May. Hence the peak survey season is from mid-April to mid-May, although surveys can continue until mid-June.

During the terrestrial phase, great crested newts spend their time foraging and dispersing back to winter habitats. Once the temperature drops below 5°C newts will enter a period of dormancy. GCN will use a variety of hibernation sites, including beneath rubble or dead wood, rabbit burrows, cracks in buildings or even loose soil at the edge of their breeding habitat. If your development site is within 500m of a potentially suitable breeding pond, you may need to survey for this species before applying for planning consent, particularly if you have suitable terrestrial habitats on site such as woodland, scrub, hedgerows, ditches and coarse grassland.

Case Studies

Great Crested Newt & Solar Sites

In 2013 Urban Edge Environmental were instructed on a number of Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys for a range of proposed renewable energy developments in Suffolk. Land within the site boundaries was predominantly under arable cultivation, but areas of rough grassland and a network of ditches and hedgerows were also present. More than 30 ponds ......

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Summary of Legal Protection

Despite its widespread distribution, GCN has undergone significant declines throughout its range, primarily due to the loss of suitable breeding ponds as a result of agricultural intensification, and the loss of terrestrial and connective habitats due to development. Furthermore, the UK has an internationally important population of great crested newts which have suffered serious decline throughout Europe GCN is fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and is a European Protected Species. Together the legislation makes it an offence to:

  • Deliberately kill, injure or capture a great crested newt
  • Destroy, damage or obstruct a great crested newt resting place or breeding site, intentionally or recklessly
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb a great crested newt while it is occupying a structure or place of shelter or protection

The law refers to all stages of a great crested newt’s lifecycle, including eggs and larvae.

Surveys, Impact Assessment and Mitigation

Our professional, licenced ecologists can help ensure your project is designed and implemented in compliance with the legal protections for great crested newts, improving the chances of successfully gaining planning permission while minimising the scope for impacts on this Jurassic-looking species. Our services include:

  • Habitat suitability assessments using the GCN Habitat Suitability Index (HSI)
  • Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys to establish presence or likely absence
  • Pond surveys to establish presence/absence and population size class estimates
  • Receptor site surveys
  • European Protected Species mitigation licence applications
  • Translocations
  • Habitat management including destructive searches
  • Habitat creation and enhancement works
  • Post-construction monitoring

Following the completion of appropriately designed surveys, we carry out impact assessments and advise on design alterations to retain important habitat features – interconnected breeding ponds, foraging habitats and hibernation sites – integrated within the site where possible. Alternatively we can advise on mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures to ensure there are no long term impacts on species survival. Sometimes this can involve the creation of new habitats and/or translocations to suitable habitats away from the development site. Once planning permission has been granted, we can also assist with gaining the necessary licence permissions from Natural England.

We’ve carried out great crested newt surveys on schemes of all sizes and assisted numerous clients in successfully gaining planning permission while complying with legal protections for GCN. Our ecology team operates throughout the UK, although our core area includes Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and London.