Great crested newts are dark brown or black in colour with a distinct ‘warty’ skin. The underside is bright orange with irregular black blotches. In the spring, males develop an impressive jagged crest along their back and a white 'flash' along the tail. Females, particularly in the breeding season when they are swollen with eggs, are bulky in appearance but lack the crest of the male. Great crested newt larvae are mottled with black spots and have a fine filament at the end of the tail.
Great Crested Newt Surveys
The type of survey required will depend on your individual project, however typically we will start with a GCN scoping survey and impact assessment to identify any ponds with 250m or 500m (depending on the size of your development) of the site. Each pond is then assessed against the habitat suitability index, which is an aid used to determine if GCN presence is likely and target further survey work (if required). Scoping surveys can be undertaken at any time of year.
If any ponds are suitable for use by GCN further more detailed presence / absence surveys will be required during the GCN survey season of mid-March to mid-June. It is worth noting that 2 of the 4 surveys which form the presence / absence survey must be completed during the optimal breeding period of mid-April to mid-May.
If GCN are present within a pond a further 2 surveys are required to form a population size class assessment (6 surveys in total). 3 of the 6 surveys which form the population size class assessment must be completed during the optimal breeding period of mid-April to mid-May.
GCN surveys should only be undertaken by licenced GCN ecologists. UES employees include Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage licensed GCN ecologists, who are legally allowed to disturb and handle GCN.
Great crested newts (GCN) are the largest of the UK's three native amphibian species. GCN are widely distributed throughout lowland Great Britain but are absent from Ireland.
For hibernation, GCN seek out a location that affords them protection from winter conditions and exploit natural opportunities within the landscape such as log piles, disused mammal burrows or cracks in the ground or artificial opportunities such as brick/rubble piles, rather than excavating their own sites.
From March onwards GCN begin to move towards breeding ponds. Suitable habitats include ponds, slow moving watercourses, woodland, scrub, hedgerows, rough grassland and derelict sites around ponds.
GCN are fully protected under UK and European legislation due to a dramatic decline in the latter half of the 20th Century, primarily due to pond loss and habitat fragmentation.
Great crested newts receive full legal protection under the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). In summary, you may commit a criminal offence if you:
• Intentionally or deliberately capture or kill, or intentionally injure GCN;
• Deliberately disturb GCN or intentionally or recklessly disturb them in a place used for shelter or protection;
• Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place;
• Possess a GCN, or any part of it, unless acquired lawfully;
• Sell, barter, exchange or transport or offer for sale GCN or parts of them.
Prosecution could lead to a fine of up to £5000 per newt affected and in some cases up to 6 months imprisonment.
As a protected species Local Planning Authority’s (LPA) will often ask for a GCN survey to be undertaken as part of planning if the proposed development has the potential to impact on GCN or their habitats. It should be noted that developments which are not subject to planning permission are still subject to the above legislation.
A method statement will be required if GCN are recorded on site. The method statement will need to be submitted with your planning application in order to demonstrate to the Local Planning Authority how you will ensure no protected species will be adversely affected by the proposed development, and demonstrate how you will secure a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) once planning permission has been granted. Our experienced and licensed ecologists can provide advice on mitigation methods. These may include the installation of amphibian fencing and pitfall traps, translocation of amphibians, pond creation or restoration, grassland seeding and maintenance, and the construction of hibernacula.
Any action or development which has the potential to impact on GCN or their habitats must be carried out under a European Protected Species Licence issued by Natural England, Natural Resources Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage. The EPSL has to be completed by a licenced GCN ecologist with previous experience of similar projects, and must be based on up to date survey information.
Once you are ready to start on site an ecological clerk of works will be required in order to ensure the EPSL is fully implemented and that no GCN are harmed throughout the development. This usually includes an ecological toolbox talk to contractors, hand searches and soft demolition of hibernacula, supervision during vegetation clearance and amphibian fencing installation, pitfall trapping, and translocation of amphibians. Only licenced GCN ecologists are allowed to handle GCN.
UES specialise in managing large capital infrastructure projects where ecological issues can pose significant risks to overall development programmes and construction timelines. Many of our projects come from repeat business and recommendations. Our client base includes developers, planners, architects, engineers, home owners, LPA’s, and statutory nature organisations. In short, we have significant knowledge of what is required to achieve planning permission without going to prohibitively expensive lengths to get it. Our commercial clients include:
• Barratt Wilson Homes
• Cheshire East Council
• Cheshire Wildlife Trust
• Crown Estates
• Denbighshire County Council
• Education Funding Agency
• Kier Construction
• Laing O’Rourke
• Liverpool County Council
• Muse Developments
• National Grid
• Network Rail
• North Wales Police
• Seddon Homes
• United Utilities PLC
• Wrexham Council
The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust are a national wildlife charity committed to conserving amphibians and reptiles and saving the disappearing habitats on which they depend. For more information visit the ARC Trust website: http://www.arc-trust.org/index.html