Argus Ecology

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Great crested newt

The great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) is protected under the European Union Habitats Directive, implemented in the UK through the 1994 Habitats Regulations; they are also protected through listing on Schedule 5 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, as amended by the 2000 Countryside and Rights of Way Act and the 2004 Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act.

Although rare and threatened on a European scale, they are most usually found in lowland areas, often on sites which do not have any designated conservation status, and therefore quite frequently come into conflict with the needs of development.

Adult newts spend much of their time in terrestrial habitats, only returning to ponds to breed. Any development within 500m of a breeding pond may require a licence. Unless recent survey data exists for ponds in proximity to development sites, if there is a risk of impacts on newts a series of surveys are required. To establish presence or absence in a particular pond, a ‘habitat suitability index' assessment is first carried out, quantifying the risk of presence; for all but the least suitable sites, four survey visits are then required, using a variety of standard techniques to establish presence. If great crested newt are found, then two further surveys must be carried out to estimate population size. Surveys can only be carried out when adult newts are likely to be in their breeding ponds, between March and June, and must be carried out by licensed, experienced surveyors.

Developments which may affect newts must then obtain a licence from the relevant national conservation agency, which will specify a range of mitigation measures, depending on the level of impact. These may consist of special newt exclusion fencing around the development site, coupled with trapping and hand searching for newts in order to move them to safety. It may involve creation of new ponds and other habitats in advance of the development, in order to maintain their favourable conservation status.

Argus Ecology are experienced in pond assessment, survey and mitigation measures, having overseen a number of complex developments involving great crested newt. It is strongly recommended that any potential risks are identified early, to avoid delays to the planning process.

From 2014 Argus have also used environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling to assess presence/ absence of this species. This is a particularly useful tool in the scoping process and in large scale projects can 'scope out' many ponds saving money and survery effort.

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