Background

Great crested newt populations have been decreasing since the latter part of the twentieth century. Although there are many different factors, it is believed to be primarily due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. This has led to the great crested newt being internationally recognised as vulnerable, threatened or endangered within the 37 different European states that it currently occupies.

The great crested newt is now protected under British law by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and great crested newts are classified as European Protected Species (EPS) under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. This makes it an offence to kill, injure or disturb great crested newts and to destroy any place used for rest or shelter by a newt. As part of the process to protect newt populations it is often a requirement within a planning application to undertake surveys of waterbodies within 250m or 500m of the development (depending on the site and likley impacts) to ensure that both the species and habitat can be considered.

EMEC Ecology works with many different clients on great crested newt projects of varying scales, from small housing developments with just one pond, up to larger and more complex projects with 50 or more ponds requiring an amphibian survey.

Timing

Surveys can be carried out in the period of mid-March to mid-June, with at least two visits in the period mid-April to mid-May. Three visits in this peak period are required if great crested newts are found to be present.

Methodology

Initial Assessment

Prior to any works that may impact on great crested newts, EMEC Ecology will make an initial assessment to establish the potential presence of great crested newts. This habitat assessment would determine the likelihood of great crested newts being present and affected by the proposed works and may save the client considerable time and costs if a full great crested newt survey is not required. If the assessment finds the potential for great crested newts to be present, EMEC Ecology would recommend a full amphibian survey to determine the presence or presumed absence of great crested newts.

Great Crested Newt Survey

To determine the presence or presumed absence of great crested newts the standard methodology includes torch surveying, bottle trapping and egg searching. Natural England specifies that a minimum of four survey visits must be made to conclude presumed absence. If great crested newts are present a further two visits are required to establish a population estimate. It may also be necessary to survey other ponds within 250m or 500m (depending on the scale of the project and habitats to be impacted) of the site.

Survey methods include:

Torching

Searching a pond shortly after dusk using high powered torches can reveal the presence of amphibians in the torch beam.

Bottle Trapping

Bottle trapping is the most effective way to detect populations of great crested newts in turbid or weedy ponds, where torchlight surveys would be less effective. Bottle trapping involves submerging plastic bottle traps into the pond in early evening. During the night the newts swim into the bottle traps and are unable to escape. This is followed by an early morning visit to collect the traps where all newts are recorded and released. All these surveys are undertaken by a licensed surveyor and therefore any risk of harm to the species is limited.

Egg Searching

Searching within submerged vegetation can reveal the presence of newt eggs. This process involves a slow and methodical search of the marginal vegetation looking for rolled leaves that may house great crested newt eggs.

All our surveys are carried out by surveyors holding great crested newt survey licences from Natural England. To request a more detailed great crested newt survey information sheet, please email mail@emec-ecology.co.uk.

Following the Survey

Report

We will provide a report, suitable for submission with a planning application, detailing the results of our survey and any required mitigation as soon as possible following the survey, however; should you have a specific date for submission of a planning application we will do our utmost to accommodate this.

European Protected Species (EPS) licence

If from the survey results the proposed activities are considered unlikely to result in an offence then no licence will be required and development works can proceed.

If the survey indicates that great crested newts or their habitat is likely to be impacted by the development, a European Protected Species (EPS) licence may be required. EMEC Ecology can apply for this licence on your behalf. The EPS licence application requires the production of a method statement, completion of an EPS application form and sometimes also the completion of a reasoned statement in support of the application. The method statement will require site-specific mitigation. For development sites where there are challenging situations, EMEC Ecology has experienced staff that can help you to find the most appropriate solutions.

Mitigation

For a licence to be granted, detailed mitigation would need to be designed to reduce the chances of harming great crested newts during development works and to ensure provision for this species is provided on completion of the scheme. As part of EMEC Ecology's solution strategies, the following methods are often employed:

Temporary Amphibian Fencing

As part of protecting great crested newt populations, the newts that occur within a site will often have to be caught and relocated to avoid causing them harm. Amphibian fencing and pitfall trapping is frequently used as a method of capturing newts on land. The fencing also prevents newts from re-entering a site. Pitfall traps are checked in the early morning and newts are relocated to a suitably identified receptor site. Thirty days is the minimum recommended trapping period for a small population of newts according to Natural England guidelines. EMEC Land Management, our in-house practical conservation team, can install temporary amphibian fencing if required.

Habitat Creation

Should you require the creation of a pond, due to the loss of an existing pond or to enhance the ecological value of a site, EMEC Land Management can construct ponds and provide advice on management if required. This can also include the creation of terrestrial habitat for amphibians including the creation of hibernacula (hibernation sites) for great crested newts. Further information on pond creation, hibernacula and other habitat creation measures are available on the EMEC Land Management website.

Monitoring Visits

Upon completion of the development works affecting great crested newts or their habitat, monitoring is often required to establish whether the works have impacted upon the population. This can be completed by EMEC Ecology and is often a requirement of the EPS licence.