Man to pay nearly £2,000 after destroying protected species haven

A man has been ordered to pay out £1,905 after destroying a valuable wildlife habitat that was home to “one of the largest colonies” of the critically endangered great crested newts in Wales.

Great crested newt © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Great crested newts are European protected species, which means the animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law, with a licence needed for any move that might disturb them.

Stephen Van Praag from Summerhouse Bay, Llantwit Major, was found guilty of draining a pool housing one of the “largest colonies of great crested newts in South Wales”, as described by regulators, without the relevant species licensing from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) or planning permission from the Vale of Glamorgan Council. 

SEE MORE: The ENDS Report Fines Monitor

He appeared before Cardiff Magistrates on 25 August charged with breaching the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) Act.

The court heard that Praag had applied for planning permission to build 20 holiday chalets on the site, but ignored the advice of his ecologist and drained the pool, resulting in what a joint investigation by NRW and Gwent Police found to be the loss of a full years’ breeding cycle of the protected species. 

The area was also described by NRW as known to be a “significant breeding site” for a number of European protected species, including slow worms, and contained a mix of rare flora and fauna.

PC Mark Powell, who worked with NRW’s industry regulation team, said: “It’s so important to preserve already dwindling protected native species such as great crested newts. This case is most disturbing due to the fact that the newts have lost an entire year of their breeding cycle which will have a profound effect on their number at this important site. 

“The owners of this site will now be forced to cooperate with the species team at Natural Resources Wales to establish regular monitoring of the newts and will also have to fulfil obligations at their own cost in relation to the environmental damage regulations to ensure that any future planning applications at Summerhouse Bay will have to include mitigation for the newts.

"We welcome the sentence, which I believe will go a long way to deter others from committing future offences.”