South Midlands Newt Conservation Partnership

Creating and managing high quality habitat for great crested newts in the South Midlands

Great crested newt District Licensing – how does it work?

The great crested newt District Licensing scheme was developed by a consortium of organisations including Naturespace and national conservation NGOs Freshwater Habitats Trust and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. The overall aim of the scheme is to enhance great crested newt conservation in an area under development pressure, including housing and transport.

From February 2018, developers in the South Midlands are able to speed up the planning application process and save money by choosing to pay into a great crested newt compensation fund, rather than going through the normal lengthy processes of newt surveys and mitigation. This is part of a new Government-approved approach to the conservation of great crested newts called “District Licensing” (see Naturespace and Natural England websites for further information on district licensing).

Who we are and what we do

The South Midlands Newt Conservation Partnership (SMNCP) is a new, community-benefit society whose sole purpose is creating and managing high quality habitat for great crested newt, using funds from developers (the great crested newt compensation fund).

New pond being created during the spring of 2018.

New pond being created during the spring of 2018. (photo credit: Pascale Nicolet)

The SMNCP work programme is described in the Great Crested Newt District Licence Implementation Strategy, which can be provided on request using the form below.

These new ponds created in woodland during spring 2018 will provide excellent new breeding habitat for great crested newt, thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairburn Foundation. (photo credit: Pascale Nicolet)

The scheme’s area covers Aylesbury, Bedford Borough, Bedford Central, Milton Keynes, Oxford City, South Oxfordshire, and Vale of White Horse District Councils.

As part of the scheme, management agreements will be put in place with landowners and land managers to fund and maintain newt habitat for the next 25 years. A monitoring programme will ensure that we can report back to Natural England on the effectiveness of the scheme for great crested newt conservation, at both the site and landscape scale.

Thanks to a grant from the Esmee Fairburn Foundation, we are currently in the process of creating high quality, clean water ponds throughout the scheme area. These ponds will provide a habitat for great crested newt in advance of development impacts, and we know from previous work by Freshwater 

Habitats Trust and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation that these habitats will also very quickly provide a haven for wildlife.

What kind of compensation sites are we looking for?

SMNCP is following best practice as set out in the Million Ponds Project’s Pond Creation Toolkit and the Amphibian Habitat Management Handbook.

Adult great crested newt spend most of their time on land and only return to ponds for breeding in spring. (photo credit: Andy Buxton)

Sites which already have newts nearby (within 500m) are best, but good sites without newts could be used to receive animals moved from development areas. On the compensation sites it should be possible to create new ponds that have an unpolluted water source, are fish free, and 400-800 m2 in surface area. We can also restore ‘lost’ ponds, or manage existing ponds to make them better for newts, for example by managing trees, removing fish or reprofiling margins.

The habitat around the ponds will need to be suitable for newts. Good newt terrestrial habitat includes woodland, scrub or rough grassland. A good hedge network is also important to allow newts to move about the landscape. SMNCP can fund the creation of these habitats, and their management in the long term, as part of the scheme.

The SMNCP team

SMNCP is a community-benefit society with a board of Directors. Currently the Directors are:

  • Dr Jeremy Biggs (Director of Freshwater Habitats Trust)
  • Dr Tony Gent (Director of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation)
  • Dr Tom Tew (Director of Naturespace and the Environment Bank)

Our core team consists of:

  • Dr Pascale Nicolet, CEO
  • Natasha Challoner, Finance Manager
  • Lynn Parker, Administrator

Our delivery team includes:

  • Andrew Buxton, Project Officer for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Districts
  • Pete Case, Project Officer for Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes District
  • Hanna Jenkins, Project Officer covering the whole area of the scheme

Note our staff are currently seconded from either Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, or Freshwater Habitats Trust.

The SMNCP team in front of a Million Ponds Project pond created in 2011 in partnership with the Forestry Commission. Within a few years, this pond and the other eight new ponds created in this woodland site in Oxfordshire had all been colonised by great crested newt. Now, thanks to funding from the Esmee Fairburn Foundation, another nine ponds were excavated in spring 2018 and many more will follow in the South Midlands. (Photo credit: Natalie Breden)

Further information

For landowners and land managers: If you would like further information or to propose or discuss a potential compensation site for pond creation or management, please see our factsheet or contact us using the form below.

For developers: If you are a developer and would like to have further information about the District Licensing scheme, then please visit the Naturespace website

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