Do I Need a Great Crested Newt Survey?

My Local Planning Authority has asked for a great crested newt survey – Do I really need one?

When a planning application for construction near to a pond is received by a Local Planning Authority (LPA), they may request that a newt survey is completed to support your application.

Great crested newts are protected under the Habitat Regulations 2017 This legislation protects great crested newts and their ‘resting places’ (which can be any habitat that they are found in). The LPA has duty to consider impacts on great crested newts (and other species and habitats) when deciding on a planning application.

Even if there isn’t a pond on your site, we need to consider that newts spend most of their life on land and can travel considerable distances.  Habitats such as hedges, shrubs, compost heaps, rubble piles, tall or tussocky grass, scrub and woodland can all support great crested newts.

How close to a pond does the project need to be?

Natural England standing advice states that you should survey for great crested newts if:

  • historical records suggest newts may be present
  • there’s a pond within 500 metres of the development, even if it only holds water some of the year
  • the development site includes refuges (e.g. log piles or rubble), grassland, scrub, woodland or hedgerows

Great crested newts may be present even if:

  • the site has been ploughed, soil stripped or had ponds filled in within the last 4 years
  • the breeding pond was destroyed several years ago
  • the pond is muddy, heavily shaded or vegetated
  • the pond contains fish
  • the pond is temporary

Is there a way round this?

We are often able to limit the survey area for ponds to 250m rather than 500m and we more often than not scope out the need to consider newts entirely where we can argue that the suitable habitat within the site is small, there are barriers to prevent newts from dispersing from the pond to the site or that the proposed building works would not be harmful to newts.

You may also be able to consider District Licencing – this is an approach where the LPA holds a development licence for projects in their area and developers pay into the scheme to fund mitigation.  This means that surveys can be avoided, which can save time but on site mitigation may still be required.  We will be writing a blog post on this shortly. At the time of writing, great crested newt district licences are only available in Kent, Woking Borough and the South Midlands – Aylesbury Vale,  Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Oxford, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse.