Archive for February, 2017

Stopped by a great crested newt?

Stories of the great crested newt, a protected species under European and UK law, stopping developers in their tracks, abound.  Disturbance of or damage to newts and their habitat can only take place on the grant of a protected species European licence.  Granted on a site-by-site basis, it can take years to obtain one.  However, in presenting his department’s white paper on housing to the Commons on 7 February 2017, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid said house building will be speeded up and “we will tackle unnecessary delays caused by everything from planning conditions to great crested newts”.  This white paper relates to England alone.

Future protection of the great crested newt is to be conducted on a nationwide and not site-by-site basis and councils will be able to authorize development if outside new national protected areas, even if it affects newts, when granting planning permission.  Natural England stated in a recent press release that the project will remove “the need for expensive surveys prior to building works and individual licences to disturb newts if they are present.”

This is not, however, going to happen tomorrow.  Piloted in Woking, Surrey and envisaged as a three year programme, areas where the great crested newt is most prevalent will be surveyed, mapped and the areas linked across England.  Small, isolated colonies of newts may struggle to survive but if part of a large protected area, they can reportedly thrive.  Developers will be encouraged to develop elsewhere safe in the knowledge that their development will not be delayed by the potential existence of this creature.

Whether or not this proposal will assist development, only time will tell.