East Midlands Environmental Consultancy (EMEC) is one of a select number of ecology consultants appointed as a delivery partner for Natural England to create or restore much needed ponds to provide habitat for great crested newts (GCN) as part of a scheme called District Level Licensing (DLL).
Despite being protected under UK and EU law, over the last 60 years, GCN have been in dramatic population decline due to agricultural intensification and building development.
Since 1900, an estimated 50% of the UK’s ponds have been lost, reducing the availability of suitable GCN habitat. DLL aims to mitigate against the loss of ponds to create new networks of interconnected ponds that attracts and increase GCN numbers across the UK.
EMEC works with local landowners, councils and Wildlife Trusts to identify potential sites within Strategic Opportunity Areas (SOA) throughout Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Suffolk.
Through delivery of the DLL scheme, EMEC has created over 1 hectare worth of specifically dedicated GCN habitat which in turn increases wider biodiversity. The ponds we create are dedicated entirely to wildlife benefiting both GCN, other European Protected Species and plant life.
What are the benefits over traditional licencing?
Under the terms of traditional GCN licensing, developers who want to build on land where GCN have been identified must trap and relocate the species before starting work. This approach simply keeps GCN out and confines them to a location rather than helping to enhance their population.
By offering DLL, EMEC has provided a valuable cost-effective solution offering developers and landowners who want to sustainably build residential or commercial properties an option to meet their legislative obligations in a way that will not negatively impact on GCN populations.
Instead of applying for a separate licence or carrying out individual detailed surveys, when a DLL scheme is in place, developers can make a single habitat compensation payment, calculated according to the impact of the development. This option provides pond networks and allows GCN to thrive. Money has also been saved by paying the single mitigation fee rather than paying for multiple licences and surveys.
There are stringent conditions within DLL that help ensure the location of ponds and any other potential inhabitants in the pond will not threaten GCN survival. E.g. Fish must not be present as they eat the GCN larvae and attract birds which eat both larvae and GCN.
Who can benefit from District Level Licensing?
Ecologically, building ponds can help farmers to utilise land that would otherwise be flooded and not suitable for cultivation. In doing so they create more new natural habitats in which species that are crucial to the pollination of crops or control of pests can thrive, thus increasing their crop yield.
For landowners there are some very attractive ecological and monetary benefits. The amount of money spent on surveying, trapping and exclusion with plastic fencing can outstrip that spent on habitat creation and management by a ratio of seven to one.
Under Natural England-led DLL schemes, 85% of developer money goes directly towards habitat creation/restoration, management and monitoring. Whereas under traditional mitigation licensing, which cost £700 each, only approximately 16 percent will be re-invested in habitat creation.
By promoting and educating landowners and developers on the benefits of District Level Licensing, EMEC has played a key role in helping to create 104 ponds with a further 58 in progress.
These interconnected habitats now offer GCN a much better chance of survival. In addition, landowners have a greater understanding and sympathy for the habitats they have created and value the benefits that have been delivered to their core farming practices as well as to the nature and the environment overall.
If you are a landowner and would like to explore the opportunities district level licencing could offer you, please get in touch with us to speak to one of our specialist team.