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Great crested newt district licensing scheme

Cotswold District Council has joined a new scheme that will deliver tangible landscape-scale conservation benefits for great crested newts, facilitate better compliance with related planning policy and save time and money for developers.

The new arrangements are based on a District Licence to be issued by Natural England to each of the local planning authorities in an extension to the “South Midlands” pilot area, which includes all the local planning authorities in Gloucestershire, West Oxfordshire, Cherwell and South Northamptonshire.  

The licence would allow the local planning authority to determine planning applications and authorise works in relation to great crested newts at the same time, and is based on a regional landscape-scale conservation strategy for the species. This provides an alternative option for developers to use where planning applications might have an impact on great crested newts instead of the existing site-based licensing approach. The aim is to provide new aquatic and terrestrial habitats in locations where there will be the most chance of success in bolstering and re-connecting existing populations.

More information on the scheme and what it can do for developers and great crested newts can be found on the Nature Space website

Once the licence has been approved by Natural England and the scheme is up and running in this area, further details will be made available here.

Developments within 500m of a pond

Surveys have shown that great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) can be present in around 50% of ponds in some areas, with around 32% pond occupancy in the ‘South Midlands’ region (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and South Northamptonshire), which is higher than the national average.

Ponds are critical to great crested newts for breeding, but they are also dependent upon other habitats too, as they spend most of their life on land within suitable terrestrial habitats such as woodland, hedgerows, rough grassland and scrub, travelling up to 500 metres between ponds.

Great crested newts have protected status through UK and European legislation and must be considered as part of the planning application process. If present, we must be satisfied that the mitigation hierarchy is satisfied, whereby detrimental effects can be:

  • Avoided;
  • Mitigated; or
  • Compensated

Where permission is granted, it may be necessary to incorporate safeguards as part of the development, as a planning condition and/or by legal agreement.

Currently, there are two ways to gain a licence in the Cotswold District. These are by applying directly to Natural England for a licence or by joining the District Licence Scheme authorised by Cotswold District Council.

Natural England Licensing Route

Surveys will need to be carried out during the recognised season (mid-March to mid-June) to confirm the presence of great crested newts. A population size class assessment may also be needed.

When presence of great crested newts is confirmed, details of surveys, mitigation and compensation will need to be submitted and agreed with the local planning authority as part of a planning application in order to comply with legislation as well as national and local planning policy.

Planning permission is required before a licence application is made to Natural England.

Once planning permission has been granted, an application will need to be prepared and submitted to Natural England, including details of impacts, mitigation, compensation and monitoring. This would need to demonstrate that compensation will restore, grow or enhance the great crested newt population.

If great crested newts were considered to be absent from a development site, but are then subsequently discovered during construction, all works must cease and Natural England contacted for advice. A licence application may subsequently need to be submitted to Natural England for approval before works can re-commence.

The District Licensing Route

The development can become authorised under Cotswold District Council’s great crested newt district licence (approved by Natural England). This means that the developer can opt into joining the scheme as part of their planning application before great crested newt surveys are carried out, i.e. before the presence of great crested newts is known. This is achieved by contacting the delivery body (NatureSpace), who conduct an assessment to confirm that the development is eligible for the scheme.

Once a developer has joined the scheme, NatureSpace carry out a metric assessment, which embeds the mitigation hierarchy, and identifies what level of compensation is required. Off-site compensation, monitoring and long-term habitat management is delivered by The Newt Conservation Partnership (NCP), a not-for-profit organisation. Compensation effort is focused on key high-quality habitats as part of a landscape-scale conservation plan for great crested newts.

All associated costs in joining the scheme are dependent on the development size, location (where it is sited on the Impact Risk Map) and impacts (the metric assessment). These are confirmed by NatureSpace once the developer has joined the scheme and before planning permission is granted by the local planning authority.