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Natterjack toad

Great Crested Newt & Amphibian Surveys

Phlorum provides great crested newt and amphibian surveys across southern England, including Sussex, London, Surrey, Kent, Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Devon.

Great Crested Newts, Amphibians & The Law

Great crested newts, natterjack toads and pool frogs are the only British amphibians which are European Protected Species (EPS). These are protected under the Retained EU Reference Directive 1992/43 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora – Annexes 2 and 4.

Natterjack toads and pool frogs are rare and are unlikely to be found on development sites. However, the potential presence of great crested newts impacts many development sites.

There are three native newt species in the UK:

  • Great crested newts
  • Smooth newts
  • Palmate newts

The adult great crested newt is significantly bigger than the other two, has an orange strip on its toes, and can have a spotty orange belly. The male also has a crest over its body and a crest on its tail.

When is the great crested newt survey season?

The great crested newt survey season relates to their breeding period when they return to the ponds. They live most of their lives in terrestrial habitats, such as rough grassland, hedgerows, and woodlands. Great crested newts can be surveyed from April to June (depending on the technique used), although the peak period is from mid-April to mid-May.

Great crested newts are nocturnal and tend to emerge from hibernation when temperatures rise above 5 Celsius, which can be from February to May.

Great crested newt survey methodology

Great crested newt surveys can involve several techniques, including:

  • Bottle traps (laid out at night and collected the following morning)
  • Searching with a torch at night
  • Egg search on vegetation
  • Hand netting, and/or eDNA sampling
Great crested newts

At Phlorum are able to advise on great crested newt issues and liaise with planning authorities. We have experienced protected species surveyors who are licensed to undertake presence/absence and population assessment surveys and in addition we are able to compile European Protected Species Mitigation (EPSM) licence applications and District Level License (DLL).

A licence is required to disturb or handle great crested newts. If they are present on a site, then a European Protected Species Mitigation (EPSM) license or a DLL will be required.


Great Crested Newts District Level Licence

In parts of the UK, there is an alternative to the traditional surveying and licence route—District-Level Licensing. This approach aims to offset the development’s impacts at a regional level through a payment system. The developer pays an agreed sum for local conservation measures for great crested newts, and then, in most cases, the developer does not have to carry out site mitigation (e.g., fencing, trapping, and monitoring).

The DLL schemes are operated by either Natural England, the local authority, or a third party, such as Nature Space, on behalf of the local authority. As the DLL is rolled out across England, local authorities are signing up for one of these schemes. As a result, the provider available for your site varies between areas.

District Level Licence Costs

Generally, the scheme involves an initial enquiry/administration cost where the scheme is assessed, and an agreement is drafted which can be submitted with the planning application. Then a later conservation payment is needed, after planning permission has been granted. For some high-impact sites, there can be a two-stage conservation payment. Then, the actual licence is issued, allowing the developer to proceed on-site.

The advantages of the District Level Licence

This approach is much quicker, and a license can be obtained all year round, without the need for surveys. If a DLL is issued for the site then the developer has approval from Natural England (regardless of which provider is used). In most cases, no on-site mitigation, trapping, or translocation is required.

The cost of the DLL varies between the providers. For Natural England the cost is generally based on the number of ponds on site and within a buffer area around the site. This approach assumes all ponds are suitable for great crested newts and the payment is proportional to the number of ponds. As a result, sometimes it can help to have eDNA analysis done of some of the ponds which can show which ponds have or do not have confirmed eDNA of great crested newts. This can sometimes help reduce the payment required.

NatureSpace uses a traffic light colour system, which represents the spatial risk zone of a site for great crested newts. In the green and amber zones, the costs are related to the calculated risk of great crested newts being present based on existing data/records. In the red zone, some mitigation requirements on-site may be required depending on the level of impact.

The disadvantages of the District Level Licence

This may not be the best option for all sites and may be more costly. Generally, the District Level License scheme is more cost effective on low impact schemes, with payments rising considerably when ponds are located on, or close to the site.

Some sites are of such ecological significance that a licence would not be possible via either route. This is why developers should engage Phlorum at the outset of any potential project, in order to assess feasibility.

Our team has vast experience surveying great crested newts and other amphibians and can design a suitable mitigation strategy to assist developers in overcoming issues related to planning applications. Contact us now for your free consultation.

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