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This pond has a habitat suitability index rating of 0.80 or ‘excellent’ due to its moderate water quality and invertebrate diversity, presence of macrophytes such as White water lily, Water plantain and Club rush sp, and good quality surrounding habitats and connectivity with the wider area.

GCN scoping survey in Sheerness, Kent

Site: Proposed site for a new school in Sheerness, Kent

Client: Education Funding Agency c/o Gleeds

Protected species: Great crested newts

Project overview

UES have completed a Great crested newt (Triturus vulgaris) scoping survey and impact assessment for the proposed construction of a new school in Sheerness, Kent. The former school buildings on site had previously been demolished, and a new school was to be constructed as part of the government’s Priority School Building Programme (PSBP). An extended phase 1 habitat survey, conducted by another ecological consultancy, recommended that further survey work was required with regards to Great crested newts (GCN), due to the close proximity of aquatic features around the site. UES were commissioned by Gleeds to conduct this further survey work on behalf of the Education Funding Agency.

Great crested newts

Great crested newts are a European Protected Species, and therefore individual animals, eggs, breeding sites and resting places are offered full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). They are the UK’s largest newt species, and can be identified by their size, dark colour and warty skin. During the spring breeding season, males develop a large, jagged crest along their back (particularly visible when submerged). Newts are usually only aquatic from March to July when breeding, and are terrestrial for the remainder of the year, hibernating from September until the following breeding season.

UES services

The school site is bordered by main roads and residential properties, which isolate the site from potential breeding ponds in the local area from certain directions. Three mapped ponds were identified within 500m of site which were not isolated in such a way, and a further two residential garden ponds were found using aerial photography and enquiring at the bordering properties to site.

These ponds were subjected to a scoping survey, which aims to evaluate characteristics of the ponds and surrounding area for suitability to support GCN. They were also assessed using the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI), which aims to put a numerical value on how suitable the ponds are to support GCN.

The survey found that out of the five ponds, two were rated as “excellent” for GCN, whilst the other three were rated as “poor”. Reasons why the ponds were considered poor included their small size and the presence of predatory fish populations. The ponds which were rated as excellent did also have Marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus) present, which could potentially increase the competition for resources such as food.

The suitable ponds were then assessed using Natural England’s rapid risk assessment tool, in order to establish whether the proposed development’s associated impacts on newts would constitute an offence. The result of this indicated that an offence was highly unlikely, largely due to the suitable ponds being located over 250m from the development footprint.

As such, UES recommended that further surveys of the ponds in the local area were not required, and that best practice measures should be implemented during the development to safeguard common amphibian species. Guidance on pond creation and how ponds can be managed for wildlife was also provided to the client.

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