In early 2017, Natural England announced that they would be rolling-out an ‘an innovative new approach to the conservation of great crested newts across the country’ and, following much anticipation, the scheme is now up-and-running across seven Local Authorities in the South Midlands with more areas likely to go ‘live’ over the next few months.
In Districts where the scheme is live developers have the option to pay an up-front fee, potentially removing the survey requirement and/or the need to obtain an additional licence following the granting of planning permission. In some circumstances the system may avoid the need for site-specific mitigation although it is understood that the retention of some areas of higher quality habitat may be required in some cases. A proportion of this payment will then be used for off-site enhancements for GCN (irrespective of whether great crested newts are actually affected by the proposals). Costs are understood to be based upon GCN ‘zones’ (the more GCN known near a site, the more the cost is likely to be).
However, it is very early days and the likely costs associated with such an approach (and any potential economic benefits) are still far from clear and we would therefore strongly recommend seeking ecological advice before deciding if this approach is right for you. It does however provide greater flexibility in dealing with this European Protected Species and may certainly be a step in the right direction!
If you have a site where you think this approach may be applicable, or wish to discuss GCN Licensing in general (including the use of Low Impact Class Licences or the four ‘Policies’), please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experienced Ecologists and we will be happy to help.