A pioneering new scheme has been launched to help give more protection for Great Crested Newts without holding up building developments.
The scheme sees Telford & Wrekin Council become one of the first local authorities in the country to be granted a special district level newt licence by Natural England.
This will help it provide better sites for the borough’s newt population while helping development projects, subject to planning permission, to be approved more quickly and cost effectively.
The scheme will be overseen by the award-winning Ecology team at the council’s in-house development consultancy apT – the first public sector commercial planning, development and environmental consultancy in the Midlands.
apT will be holding a virtual launch event later this month to brief developers and other stakeholders on how the scheme will work and spell out its advantages.
Mark Latham, Ecology and Green Infrastructure Specialist at apT, said the move meant the authority was leading the way in delivering an ecologically-positive service which addressed an important element of the development process.
“We have around 1,000 ponds across the Telford & Wrekin borough and they are something of a hotspot for Great Crested Newts.
“Under the scheme, conservation payments from developers are used to restore and improve newt habitats which will allow the number of newts to grow.”
Mark said the scheme had already invested £20,000 at 12 sites in the borough to create or enhance existing ponds used by newts. This has been done in advance so developers can immediately hit the ground running when the scheme opens.
Work is now under way to create and restore several ponds across the borough to attract even more Great Crested Newts.
The council’s licence is valid across Telford & Wrekin but the team’s experience means that apT could help other authorities build on their success.
Councillor Carolyn Healy, Cabinet Lead for Natural Environment and Climate Change, said:
“We are a very green borough and it’s great that we have the first such scheme to be fully administered by a council. Here nine in ten households are within 300m of green space and we’re protecting more green spaces than ever with 16 local nature reserves in the borough, many of which are home to Great Crested Newts, as well as over 200 Green Guarantee spaces.
“With this licence we can create high quality habitats where we know newts can thrive, doing even more to protect the species.
“At the same time we can reduce the cost of regulation and speed up the licencing process which helps developers.
“It’s a small but important part of our mission to lead a green recovery for the borough from the effects of pandemic and to help developers build back better and greener.”
Jen Almond, Natural England’s District Level Licensing Programme Manager, said:
“District level licensing is transforming an area of regulation from one that has been problematic for great crested newts and people into one that is a real conservation success story.
“Telford & Wrekin’s ambition and drive make this bespoke, locally-led scheme a win-win for both local developers and the future of this iconic species.”
The apT virtual webinar will be held on August 25 at 8.30am, with registration available at https://bit.ly/apTGCNewtLicence
For more details about apT visit http://www.apt-group.co.uk