A pond at Greenham Common by George Evans via geograph.org.uk

To book your Habitat Assessment for Great Crested Newts

Call Midland Ecology

07854473385

or email info@midlandecology.co.uk

For fast, friendly and affordable service

Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus) and their habitats are protected by law.

If Great Crested Newts (GCN), or suitable habitat, are found on your site, then in most cases, you should be able to avoid harming the GCN by adjusting your planned work. If you can’t avoid disturbing them or damaging their habitats, then you will require a licence from Natural England. If you need to apply for planning permission, then your planning authority should check that you’re taking the right steps to avoid harming them, which usually starts with a survey.

You may be required to undertake a Habitat Assessment, using the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI), for GCN if there is a risk that your development could present harm to them or destroy their habitat.

Your local planning authority should advise you, or your architect, if the development requires GCN surveys or a previous Preliminary Ecological Assessment or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey may identify the need for a Habitat Suitability Assessment for GCN. The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust has lots of guidance, or alternatively call us on 07854473385 for some advice.

GCN suffered a severe decline in the last century and continue to be threatened by a wide range of land uses, including agriculture, forestry and development. Despite a widespread distribution, the status of the GCN is considered to be of concern because populations are still being lost or damaged.

GCN are therefore safeguarded by both British and European laws including The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the European Union’s ‘Habitats Directive’. Cumulatively, this legislation makes it illegal to:

- Capture, kill, disturb or injure great crested newts (on purpose or by not taking enough care)

- Disturb great crested newts in a place used for shelter or protection (on purpose or by not taking enough care)

- Damage or destroy a breeding or resting place (even accidentally)

- Obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places (on purpose or by not taking enough care)

- Possess a great crested newt, or any part of it, unless acquired lawfully

- Sell, barter, exchange or transport or offer for sale great crested newts or parts of them.

- Take great crested newt eggs

GCN habitat is defined as “the resting place of a GCN”. Generally however, this means “any structure or place, which any wild GCN uses for shelter or protection.”

If you carry out work affecting GCN or their habitats without a license you will be breaking the law.

Penalties on conviction include:

- A maximum fine of £5,000 per offence or per newt

- Up to six months in prison

In order to conduct your Habitat Suitability Assessment for GCN, Midland Ecology will require the following information:

- Your/your client’s name and contact details (e-mail address and telephone number)

- The full site address

- Access to be arranged for a convenient time
(NB it is not necessary for you to be present during the survey as long as there is open access to the site, including any waterbodies. Please ensure any alarm/lock codes/keys are sent to us in advance).

- A copy of your Preliminary Ecological Assessment or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey, if carried out by another ecologist.

- Full site plan including the position of any water bodies on site (in PDF format).

- Your development proposals (in PDF format).

A Habitat Suitability Assessment takes place during daylight hours and can be conducted at any time of year.

Click here to view our survey calendar

Assuming visibility is not affected, this type of survey can be conducted in any weather.

A desk-based study will establish the number and location of water bodies within 500m of the site using MAGIC and aerial images from Google Earth. A search of the National Biodiversity Network will ascertain whether any records of GCN exist for the area.

A surveyor will assess any water bodies (ponds) on the site and within the surrounding 500m (where access can be gained) using the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI). HSI measures the suitability of a pond to establish the likelihood of a GCN population being present, calculating a score based on the following 10 factors:

- Location

- Pond area

- Pond drying

- Water quality

- Shade

- Water fowl

- Fish

- Pond density

- Terrestrial habitat

- Macrophyte cover

In addition, the impact of the proposed development will be assessed using the Natural England Rapid Risk Assessment tool; considering whether breeding ponds will be affected, land next to breeding ponds affected, distance of the site from breeding ponds, and the potential for individual newts to be killed.

It is not necessary for you to be present during the survey as long as there is open access to the site and any water bodies present. Please ensure any alarm/lock codes/keys are sent to us in advance.

The cost of a Habitat Suitability Assessment is determined by the size of the site and the number and size of the water bodies to be inspected. Our fee includes the desk study, site visit and the production of a report, with associated costs (e.g. mileage, expenses) all included. Call us on 07854473385 or e-mail us for a more detailed quote.

Biological records data will also be required. This is provided by your local biological records centre, who will charge their own fee. We will contact them for a quote on your behalf.

Midland Ecology include as standard a Habitat Suitability Assessment as part of a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey. Assuming that the surveyor finds no further water bodies within 500m in addition to those identified in the desk based study, and access can be gained to all water bodies on the same visit, then no further cost will be charged.

Midland Ecology aims to have your finished report with you within 10 days of completing the survey.

Depending on your local records centre, Biological Records Data (BRD) can delay the final version of your report. We will request a probable timescale when obtaining your quote, and advise you immediately of any likely delays.

Using the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI), the surveyor will score the pond’s suitability

- <0.5 Poor

- 0.5-0.59 Below average

- 0.6-0.69 Average

- 0.7-0.79 Good

- >0.8 Excellent

to establish the likelihood of a GCN population being present. The site and the impact of the proposed development will also be assessed using the Natural England Rapid Risk Assessment.

Where it is considered unlikely for a GCN population to occur and the Natural England Rapid Risk Assessment deems no impact from the proposed development is likely, then no further surveys will be required

Any ponds scoring above 0.5 on the HSI, or sites where the proposed development is likely to impact GCN habitat, will require full GCN presence/absence surveys.