A scheme which makes it quicker and easier for developers to meet their legal obligations to great crested newts has been rolled out to three councils in the Banburyshire area.
Great crested newts are a protected species and are declining across their range. Developments that could impact the species are required to complete detailed surveys during a three-month window, which only happens once a year. If the survey season is missed, this causes delays of a year.
Under the new scheme, NatureSpace, a partnership of environment and conservation organisations, has already surveyed the districts and produced a great crested newt 'risk map'. Developers then make a financial contribution to offset the impact of their projects, ending increasing mitigation costs and speeding up the licensing process. The cash goes towards creating at least four new ponds and associated habitats for every pond lost. The scheme, which is approved and licensed by Natural England, has seen £250,000 go towards conservation projects for the newts.
Nine areas have joined the scheme including Cherwell District Council, South Northants Council and West Oxon District Council. They will join the seven planning authorities that have been part of a trial running for the past 18 months.
NatureSpace CEO, Dr Tom Tew said: “The expansion into the new districts is great news for both developers and great crested newts. The scheme provides developers with a certain and risk-free approach to meet their great crested newt obligation in a much shorter timescale than the old system allowed. The developer has a much quicker and simpler option that deals with all newt-related aspects of a project to be quantified at the beginning of the process, without requiring any surveys, and then discharged immediately planning consent is granted, with no further long-term obligations. The scheme has proved to be very popular with developers to date.”
NatureSpace members include the South Midlands Newt Conservation Partnership, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and the Freshwater Habitats Trust.
NatureSpace’s director of conservation, Sarah Garrett said: “At the heart of this scheme is a detailed assessment that embeds the mitigation hierarchy. This ensures that contributions made by development are appropriate and fair, but also that it takes into account high-quality habitat that shouldn’t be lost to development and seeks to mitigate and enhance where necessary. The strategic conservation approach carried out by the South Midlands Newt Conservation Partnership works across the landscape focusing on character areas, restabilising great crested newt habitat and developing connective corridors across the South Midlands. With the new districts coming on board it will open up even more opportunities for us to deliver long-term conservation for great crested newts.”