Great Crested Newt by Christian Fischer via Wikimedia Commons

To book your Great Crested Newt Presence/absence Surveys

Call Midland Ecology

0121 517 0841

or email

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. In order to grant a licence, Natural England will need to know whether GCN are indeed present, and the scale of the population. These are the type of questions that GCN presence/absence surveys are designed to answer.

You may be required to undertake presence/absence surveys for GCN if there is a risk that your development may present harm to them or destroy their habitat.

Your local planning authority should advise you, or your architect, that a Habitat Suitability Assessment for GCN is necessary. In some instances this may have been included as part of a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey.

The HSI will score the suitability of any waterbodies within 500m of the site, in order to establish the likelihood of a GCN population being present. Any waterbodies scoring above 0.5 on the HSI will require full GCN presence/absence surveys.

The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust has lots of guidance, or alternatively call us on 0121 517 0841 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 GCN presence-absence surveys, 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 the site on all survey dates
(NB it is not necessary for you to be present during the survey as long as there is open access to all of the water bodies to be surveyed. Please ensure any alarm/lock codes/keys are sent to us in advance).

- A copy of your Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey and Habitat Suitability Assessment 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).

GCN presence/absence surveys must be timed between mid-March and mid-June with 50% of the surveys timed between mid-April and mid-May where weather conditions allow.

Click here to view our survey calendar

Assuming that visibility is not affected, this type of survey can be conducted in most conditions, provided that night-time air temperatures are above 5°C.

* Presence/absence surveys of water bodies

Presence/absence surveys are conducted over a minimum of 4 site visits between mid-March and mid-June with at least 2 visits between mid-April and mid-May. On each visit the ecologist will use 3 of the following survey methods:

- Refuge searching

- Egg searching

- Netting

- Torch survey

- Bottle trapping

If GCN are found during one of these 4 initial visits, then a further 2 visits will be needed to estimate population size. These additional visits will also need to be conducted between mid-March and mid-June and at least 3 of the total 6 visits must take place between mid-April and mid-May.


* Presence/absence surveys on land

For instances where it is not possible to conduct presence/absence surveys of the water body (e.g. the water body scoring highly on the HSI is not on the developer’s land and access cannot be gained), then presence/absence surveys on land can be conducted. These, however, take longer, require the installation of drift fencing, require more surveyor effort, and are more disruptive to any GCN present. These terrestrial presence/absence surveys are therefore more expensive, and require justification to the relevant authorities.

It is assumed that a desk study, including Biological Records data, will have been included in the Habitat Suitability Assessment and this will, therefore, not be duplicated in this report.

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

The cost of GCN presence/absence surveys is determined by the size, location and number of water bodies to be surveyed. Our fee includes the desk study, site visits* and the production of a report, with associated costs (e.g. mileage*, expenses) all included. Call us on 0121 517 0841 or e-mail us for a more detailed quote.

* Please be aware that where GCN are found, further surveys may be required in order to gain population data, e.g. The HSI may recommend an initial 4 days of surveying, however if GCN are found, then this will need to increase to 6 in order to give a population estimate. Your surveyor will discuss this with you and agree any further costs before undertaking the work.

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

If no GCN are found, then this type of survey will usually provide adequate evidence to satisfy your local planning authority that your proposed development poses no risk to GCN.

If GCN are found, there is no need to panic – it does not usually mean that your development can’t go ahead, in fact it is very rare that a development will need to stop altogether. A European Protected Species (EPS) development license issued by Natural England (NE) may be required prior to any works taking place, and you may need to adapt your plans slightly to compensate and mitigate for the GCN. Midland Ecology can work with you to obtain this development licence, and design a mitigation and compensation strategy to be implemented with Natural England and the Local Planning Authority.