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Conservation scheme for great crested newts gets underway in Berkshire

Conservation scheme for great crested newts gets underway in Berkshire

NatureSpace has announced the expansion of its innovative District Licensing Scheme for great crested newts into six new Local Planning Authorities across Berkshire. The scheme provides developers in the region with a quick, simple and risk-free solution and ensures hugely improved conservation outcomes for newts.

Great crested newts are a widespread but declining protected species in the UK, making them a key concern for both developers and conservationists across the country. The NatureSpace scheme, approved by Natural England, speeds up development delivery by providing a year-round solution, with no need for developers to wait for the short survey window which only runs from March till June.

Development impacts are properly accounted for within the planning process and the funding raised from developments using the scheme pays for high-quality, well managed habitats across Berkshire.

The announcement increases the geographical area covered by the NatureSpace Scheme by 126,388 hectares. Berkshire is an ideal area for the scheme as the county is a stronghold for great crested newts and has plans for significant infrastructure improvements and other development over the coming years.

The additional areas now covered by the scheme are Bracknell Forest Council, Reading Borough Council, Slough Borough Council, West Berkshire Council, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead Council and Wokingham Borough Council.

The scheme is accessible to all developers, from householders to major infrastructure and commercial development projects.

NatureSpace CEO, Dr Tom Tew commented: “We are delighted to be expanding into Berkshire with our six new partner Local Planning Authorities – it’s great news all round for developers, planning authorities and great crested newts.

“Since 2018, our scheme has been offering a much quicker, year-round solution for assessing sites – avoiding survey season restrictions and unforeseen delays. Developers of any size and type are welcome to join – and won’t need to worry about any long-term obligations.

“The scheme also delivers a landscape-scale compensation strategy that provides demonstrable net gain and long-term protection for great crested newt conservation.”

Cllr Richard Somner, Executive Member for Planning, Transport and Countryside at West Berkshire Council, said: “We are pleased to be part of the NatureSpace District Licensing Scheme that protects and delivers better conservation for great crested newts alongside wider biodiversity benefits.

“The scheme is funded through development costs, with no cost to the taxpayer meaning planning and licensing are done together, avoiding confusion, uncertainty and delays.

“The scheme will allow us to create and maintain more ponds across the district that will not only benefit the great crested newt population overall, but also the wider eco system that would benefit from this type of habitat.”

Working in collaboration with the Newt Conservation Partnership and supported by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and the Freshwater Habitats Trust, the scheme funds creation, restoration and management of ponds, terrestrial habitat, and connectivity features. The scheme creates at least four high-quality new newt ponds for every one lost, providing net gain not only for great crested newts but also a wide range of other biodiversity.

Main photo credit: Sam Knowles