BSG Ecology was commissioned by Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) to provide a Phase 1 habitat survey of a small area of former arable land adjacent to the Raglan Highways Depot to inform a planning application for a car park. The car park was required to accommodate the expanding work force at the depot.
The Phase 1 survey identified a pond approximately 150 m north-west of the proposed development site, and associated desk study revealed historical records of great crested newts (GCN) found under a manhole cover on the depot grounds.
Following the Phase 1 habitat survey and engagement with the Council’s ecologist, a recommendation for survey of GCN in the pond was made. BSG Ecology was subsequently commissioned to carry out the GCN survey, and identified that a medium sized population of GCN was present in the pond.
The development site supported limited areas of suitable terrestrial habitat. However, the area had previously been vegetated (former agricultural crop production) and it is adjacent to a species-rich hedgerow that has potential to be used by newts as a commuting corridor for dispersal beyond the site. The historic record of GCN found on the depot also suggested that newts traverse the site, at least occasionally.
EPS Licence and Mitigation
Great crested newts and their habitats in water and on land are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by the Crow Act 2000) and under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Although the law provides strict protection to great crested newts, it also allows this protection to be set aside (derogated) under Section 39 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 through the issuing of licences. In Wales, these licences are currently determined by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for development works and are known as European Protected Species (EPS) licences.
The planning consent for the car park at Raglan Highways Depot was granted with the condition that a satisfactory draft method statement, detailing the steps for conserving GCN during the development works, would be submitted to MCC; and that a European Protected Species Licence would be obtained in order to allow implementation of the required mitigation measures.
The method statement was prepared by BSG Ecology and set out details for the installation of newt fencing around the development footprint, and a program of capture and exclusion to ensure the removal of all amphibians prior to development works commencing. In order to compensate for the loss of habitat from the development footprint, and to maintain the conservation status of GCN following the development, permission was secured to create two hibernacula (habitat for hibernating newts) adjacent to the nearby pond.
The draft method statement prepared by BSG Ecology was accepted by MCC and the condition on the planning consent was discharged. Raglan Highways Depot was granted an EPS licence based on the proposed mitigation strategy and the program of capture and exclusion was carried and completed out by BSG Ecology in summer 2014. This allowed the development to proceed, and the car park was completed in winter 2014/2015.