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The importance of Great Crested Newt surveys in Planning and Development

Failure to consider ecology and biodiversity on a site can be a serious block on achieving a planning consent.

This is particularly topical at present as we are coming into the season for surveys. There is a limited window to undertake studies and failure to survey during the right season will prevent your development coming forward as quickly as you might want.

Commissioning the right initial reports and surveys is crucial to ensure that your application is not refused on technical grounds.If you do not commission the correct survey at the correct time it will potentially prevent you from being able to achieve consent, even if you have a good site from a planning point of view.

With this in mind Optimis is delighted to welcome the second of a series of blogs from Joanne Makin, Assistant Ecologist at The Landscape Partnership with whom we work closely.

Image: H Krill

What are great crested newts?

Great crested newts can be identified by their warty skin, distinctive orange and black underside, as well as golden-ring around their eye and white spotting. They are found in still or slow flowing water, such as ponds and ditches during the spring-summer breeding season. They then move to land such as hedges and verges during the autumn and winter months were they seek refuge.

How are great crested newts protected?

The Great Crested Newt is protected under European and British legislation. In Britain the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provide protection for the great Crested Newt, making a number of offences illegal. Offences include:

  • Deliberate, reckless or intentional disturbance of GCN in a place of shelter
  • Damage to, or destruction of a breeding or resting site
  • Intentional or deliberate capture, killing or injuring of a GCN
  • Intentional or reckless damage to, or destruction or obstruction of access to a place of shelter

Great crested newts and development

Although scarce across much of Europe, Great Crested Newts are very common in parts of lowland England, and survey should be considered for all developments within 500m of still or slow flowing water (e.g. ponds, ditches) where vegetated linkages (hedges, verges etc) connect the water to the development site. The programme below gives an indication of how survey timing constraints apply to the year calendar.


Early identification of Great Crested Newt presence can save money and prevent lengthy delays:

If surveys are carried out sufficiently early, there should be time to plan for carrying out in the appropriate season any GCN exclusions or translocations that may be necessary, without delays to the project programme. Later identification may result in project delays whilst waiting for the season when GCN are active.

Joanne Makin, The Landscape Partnership

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