Two Cheshire councils, in partnership with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England, will allow developers across the county to apply for great crested newt licences under the new district level licensing scheme, it was announced yesterday.
The district level permitting scheme was launched in Kent last month and is currently available to developers across 23 local planning authority areas in England, including across Woking and the South Midlands.
Under district licensing, developers do not have to apply for a licence to destroy great crested newt habitat or move animals because an authorised body, such as the council, has already obtained it. Instead, they must pay into a pot to offset any losses, and that money is used to create new habitat elsewhere.
Developers use councils’ ecological surveys to help them identify, restore and create offsite newt habitats and ponds as a means of mitigation for any anticipated damages caused by their developments. The habitats are created prior to any development taking place.
Natural England believes the scheme saves developers time and money as it removes the need for expensive ecological surveys needed to be carried out prior to building works and takes out the effort of applying for individual licences to disturb newts if they are present.
The regulator also believes this scheme creates more healthy and resilient newt populations rather than the old licensing system which focussed on individual development sites creating a situation where the protected species was being “squeezed in and around the margins of a development.”
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/1012)
09 Jan 2018
DEFRA and Natural England have banked the scheme’s proof of concept on a 2016 pilot scheme in Woking, which ENDS revealed had minimal uptake. In spite of this limited success, Natural England is hoping to push the district licensing out to 150 councils by next year.