FPCR are excited to announce their recent appointment for the District Level Licensing Framework Lot 2 by Natural England. This means our Practice will be undertaking an amazing 370 eDNA samples and Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) surveys across Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Staffordshire (A113) during the period 15th April – 30th June 2019. The data collected will confirm the presence or absence of GCN within ponds, in which district licencing will be achievable, as GCN are known within these areas. Our extensive resources and 4 regional offices means that well placed to undertake such a large scale project.
GCN are fully protected under European and domestic legislation and the Habitats Directive places an obligation on the UK to achieve their Favourable Conservation Status (FCS, as defined by Article 2 of the Habitats Directive). Although declining overall, GCN are still widespread and relatively common in some areas in which developments are planned, including in disturbed and urban environments. The Habitats Directive makes it an offence to capture, kill, injure or disturb GCN or to damage key elements of their habitats. The Habitats Directive provides for the derogation from these prohibitions for specified reasons and providing certain conditions are met. Those derogations are transposed into the domestic legislation by way of a licensing regime. As a result, GCN may cause delays in developments and require considerable survey, mitigation or compensation work.
Strategic licensing is an alternative to the site by site great crested newt (GCN) licensing process which has been used for development up till now. It involves district wide survey of the distribution of GCN and assessment of impacts on GCN from all planned development in the district over the whole local plan period. GCN records and other environmental data are used to map zones which indicate where there are highest risks to the local conservation status of GCN and where GCN pose highest risks to development.
The District Level Licensing framework contract is intended to deliver data which will significantly improve the evidence base of GCN distribution and habitat suitability for this species across England. This will enable the development of area specific strategies for GCN, including strategic compensation areas, which will tie into planning and licensing decisions. This will be carried out across approximately 136 Local Authorities in England, and will require ca. 3,000 pond surveys in 2018 and 3,700 pond surveys in 2019.
FPCR’s data collection will ultimately therefore be utilised to develop conservation strategies for GCN which in turn will ensure the ‘Favourable Conservation Status’ for this species within the UK as required under the Habitats Directive is maintained.
We are looking forward to working in close collaboration with both Natural England and ADAS on this exciting project.