Great Crested Newt Surveys
The great crested newt is the UK’s largest newt species. Although they are terrestrial for the majority of their lives, they migrate to water in the spring in order to breed. They will use ponds and other water bodies for breeding where females will lay their eggs on the submerged leaves of aquatic plants. During their terrestrial phase great crested newts can be found in rank woodland, scrub and grassland as well as man-made features, usually located within a 250 metre radius of their breeding ponds.
Survey Types & Timing
Great crested newt surveys are most frequently based on confirming newt presence and population size in water bodies during the amphibian breeding period. The recognised great crested newt survey season runs from mid-March to mid-June, and should entail a series of well spaced survey visits of all suitable and accessible water bodies located within the development site and ideally also within a 500 m radius of the site. At least half of the survey visits should be carried out between mid-April to mid-May when most newts are likely to be in their breeding ponds. The number of surveys may vary depending on findings, i.e. four surveys are required prove presence/absence, and six surveys are required to assess population size if present.
When surveying ponds various techniques can be used including bottle traps (installed at night and checked the following morning), after-dark torching, netting and egg searches. Great crested newt surveys should only be undertaken by a suitably licensed ecologist at any site where there is a reasonable chance that great crested newts are present.
Legislation & Planning
Great crested newts, at all life stages, are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, making them a European Protected Species. It is therefore illegal, with certain exceptions, to:
- Intentionally or deliberately capture, kill, or injure great crested newts;
- Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy, and disturb great crested newts in a place used for shelter or protection, or obstruct access to such areas;
- Damage or destroy a great crested newt breeding site or resting place;
- Possess a great crested newt, or any part of it, unless acquired lawfully; and
- Sell, barter, exchange, transport, or offer for sale great crested newts or parts of them.
The Next Step
If newts are present on site and the proposed development will result in significant negative impacts on great crested newts then a European Protected Species development licence from Natural England (or the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation) will need to be applied for. As part of the licence application, Natural England or the relevant SNCO will need to be provided with sufficient evidence that the development is either for the purpose of ‘Preserving public health or public safety‘ or for ‘Imperative reasons of overriding public interest‘. Additionally the application must show that the favourable conservation status of great crested newts will be maintained and that there is no satisfactory alternative to the proposed development. This information can be provided in the form of survey results together with a detailed mitigation document.