Freshwater Habitats Trust is part of a consortium of organisations testing a new approach to great crested newt conservation known as ‘district licensing’. The scheme has been running across the South Midlands since February 2018, and we are pleased to announce that it is now expanding into Northamptonshire.
Great crested newts have an unfortunate reputation for causing significant delays to development. Indeed, last year our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said that “newt-counting delays are a massive drag on the prosperity of this country.” However, the district licencing scheme, run by NatureSpace and approved by Natural England, has shown that delays are no longer an issue.
The NatureSpace scheme brings together the local planning authorities, expert conservation organisations (Freshwater Habitats Trust and Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, working together as the Newt Conservation Partnership), eDNA testing pioneers NatureMetrics and scientists at the University of Kent. The overall aim is to enhance great crested newt conservation in an area under development pressure, including housing and transport.
Under the district licencing scheme the developer joins the scheme, pays for any impacts they cause and then the conservation bodies look after the newt conservation. The scheme removes the risk and uncertainty for planners and developers and dramatically speeds up the licensing process. It also ensures a sustainable future for great crested newts by creating and managing new high-quality clean water habitats across the region.
The announcement that the scheme will now be moving into Northamptonshire is great news. Northamptonshire is a natural area of expansion for the NatureSpace scheme, which has been operating successfully for 3 years in the South Midlands, including in the neighbouring districts of South Northamptonshire, Bedford Borough and Milton Keynes.
The extra areas now covered by the scheme are the new West Northamptonshire Council, a new unitary authority serving the previous administrative areas of Daventry District, Northampton Borough and South Northamptonshire, and the new North Northamptonshire Council, a new unitary authority serving Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and East Northamptonshire.
Cllr Steven North, North Northamptonshire Council Executive member for Growth and Regeneration, said: “I welcome this move, as it offers a more streamlined way to deal with the issues of great crested newts on development sites.
“There are advantages to developers as it makes things easier for them, while at the same time – and very importantly – it doesn’t compromise the welfare of the newts. In fact, there are advantages for the newts in that they will get larger areas of linked-up and well-managed habitat.”
NatureSpace CEO, Dr Tom Tew commented: “We are delighted to see the scheme expand into Northamptonshire with our new partner Planning Authorities – it is positive news for both developers and great crested newts. The scheme provides developers of all sizes and types with a certain and risk-free solution to meeting their great crested newt obligations.
“The scheme offers developers a much quicker and simpler option that sees all newt-related aspects of a project being sorted at the beginning of the process and without the need for expensive seasonal surveys, which can often cause delays. Once planning consent is granted the developer can start work immediately without worrying about seeking a separate licence from Natural England for great crested newts – and with no long-term obligations for the developer. Through our scheme, developers make one simple contribution to compensate for the impacts of their project and put an end to spiralling mitigation costs.”
Visit the Newt Conservation Partnership page to find out more.