UES were appointed to carry out ecological surveys to support a planning application to extend an industrial estate in Cheadle, Cheshire. An initial Preliminary Ecological Appraisal was undertaken, which identified a number of great crested newt (GCN) ponds in the vicinity of the proposed development. GCNs and their habitat are afforded full legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The team undertook a desk survey to identify all ponds within 250m of the proposed development site, and conducted a record search to determine the presence of GCNs in these ponds. The ponds near to site had already been recently surveyed as part of the proposed Manchester Airport relief road scheme. These results were incorporated as part of the desk study preventing the client for undertaking further GCN presence / absence surveys.

The previous surveys revealed two ponds supporting GCN within 250m of the site. The project was assessed using the Natural England Rapid Risk Assessment Tool, which indicated that without mitigation the development of the site would be likely to constitute an offence. Therefore UES were commissioned to prepare a GCN Method Statement to support the planning application, and to obtain a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) to enable the development to proceed following mitigation measures.

The Method Statement detailed the mitigation and compensation measures required in order to safeguard GCN on site and prevent a breach of protected species legislation. Following the submission of the UES Method Statement to the Local Planning Authority planning permission was granted, allowing UES to then apply for the EPSL.

Ordinarily when GCN are present locally, a development site needs to be ringed with amphibian fencing and trapped out for 30 days moving any GCN (and other amphibians) found to a suitable receptor area. However, UES were able to work with the client to manage the site and reduce its potential to support GCN prior to applying for the EPSL. This reduced the need for translocation of amphibians off-site, saving the client thousands of pounds. A detailed EPSL application was submitted by UES and the licence was duly granted by Natural England, allowing the mitigation works to commence.

The mitigation works began in January 2016 and followed the Method Statement produced by our experienced ecologists to ensure the protection of any GCN present on site. All staff working on the site were given a Toolbox Talk by a UES ecologist, advising on all aspects of working in GCN habitat including how to identify GCNs and what to do if any are discovered.

UES will oversee the works on site to ensure good ecological practice, such as assessing the integrity of the fence and the condition of the GCN habitat, and remain on call to respond to any issues such as the discovery of a GCN during the works.