Natural England (NE) is currently piloting a new approach to licencing in relation to great crested newts in the Borough of Woking. This scheme aims to bring more flexibility to the licensing system for great crested newts, while also providing conservation benefits for newt populations.
Under the pilot scheme an organisational licence will be issued to Woking Borough Council that will derogate the law concerning the strict protection afforded to (low populations of) newts within the local authority area. Developers that ‘opt in’ to the scheme will be required to make a payment to fund (advanced) compensatory habitat creation, but not to complete survey or deliver mitigation themselves. This is significant, as if the principles of the pilot study are adopted more widely it will result in a radical change in how European Protected Species (EPS) licencing is dealt with. This pilot scheme is also of significance in that it brings a more strategic approach to great crested newt conservation. It represents a departure from the current site-by-site approach to mitigation on development sites.
Should these policies start to be adopted in other local authority areas, one of the key roles of ecological consultants such as BSG Ecology will be to advise clients on the merits of opting in and out of emerging schemes. A detailed understanding of the evolution of the Woking study and an ability to critically evaluate the likely time and cost implications of the options available to clients will be critical in providing good consultancy advice in this, as one size will not fit all. Whilst there may be clear advantages to developers (and EPS) posed by the new policies, especially in areas where newts are sparsely distributed, there will be circumstances where the conventional (more traditional) approach involving survey, mitigation and licencing may be more acceptable both in terms of cost and overall outcome for the favourable conservation status of the EPS.
The article below, written by Dr Jim Fairclough from our Oxford office, provides a detailed overview of NE’s Woking Pilot Study process, emerging policies and our views on the potential implications these could have for our clients.
Viewpoint – Natural England’s Pilot Great Crested Newt Project in Woking – what are the implications?
If you are involved in promoting development that has great crested newt or other EPS issues, we would be more than happy to talk to you about the implications of NE’s emerging policies.
Please contact Jim Fairclough in our Oxford office on email@example.com or 01865 883833.