Wealden District Council
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Wildlife and Biodiversity

Great crested newt district licensing scheme

Developments within 500 metres of a pond.

Great crested newts are dependent upon ponds to breed although they actually spend most of their life on land in places such as woodland, hedgerows, rough grassland and scrub.  They are generally found within 500m of ponds, although they can travel much further than this – up to 1.6km.

Great crested newts and their habitats are legally protected in the UK and planning authorities must consider the species as part of the planning process while developers must be careful not to break the law.

Where impacts may arise, developers should obtain a licence to make the activities lawful which is usually additional to the planning process.

Where the planning authority hold a District Licence the two can be brought together in a quicker and simpler process.

Natural England have produced a guidance document for all planning authorities using the District Licensing Scheme. This guidance explains that local planning authorities can rely on the “Impact Risk Zone” maps to identify where great crested newts are likely to be. In the higher risk areas (red and amber zones), planning applicants must now set out how risks to great crested newts will be dealt with.

The “Impact Risk Zone” map is available on the NaturalSpace Partnership website.

Unless it can be demonstrated that there is no risk of impacts on great crested newts or their habitats, you may need a licence to carry out development work where the species is present. You can get a licence by:

  • Applying directly to Natural England
  • Joining the District Licence Scheme authorised by Wealden District Council
  • By working with a registered ecologist under the low impact class licence 

If you wish to use the District Licence, you must apply before or during (not after) the planning process, otherwise variations to any planning consent will be necessary.

You can opt into the scheme by contacting NatureSpace to request a free upfront assessment which will determine eligibility and all associated costs, timing and mitigation requirements.

Under the District Licensing Scheme habitat compensation is delivered by the Newt Conservation Partnership, who take on responsibility for the habitat creation as well as long-term monitoring and management, so that developers don’t have to. Compensation through the scheme delivers landscape-scale conservation for great crested newts.

The applicant should contact NatureSpace who will carry out a free, up- front assessment to determine eligibility and all associated costs, timing and mitigation requirements. You can also call them on 01865 688307 or email: info@naturespaceuk.com.

Planning permission is required before a licence application is made to Natural England.

Surveys will need to be carried out during the recognised season (mid- March to mid-June) to confirm the presence of great crested newts. A population size class assessment may also be required. Surveys should always be carried out by suitably qualified and experienced ecologists.

If the presence of great crested newts is confirmed, details of surveys, mitigation and compensation will need to be submitted and agreed with us as part of a planning application. This is necessary to comply with legislation as well as national and local planning policy.

Once planning permission has been granted, an application (including details of impacts, mitigation, compensation and monitoring) will need to be prepared and submitted to Natural England. This would need to demonstrate that compensation will restore, grow or enhance the great crested newt population.

In some cases, risks of impacts may be considered to be so low that a licence is not necessary. This may involve an ecologist preparing a precautionary method of working and reasonable avoidance measures (RAMs) to avoid offences and avoid the need for a licence.

If great crested newts are subsequently discovered, all works must cease, and Natural England must be contacted for advice. A licence is likely to be required before works can recommence. At this stage it may not be possible to access the District Licensing Scheme and a standard mitigation licence may be the only option, depending on what works have been undertaken.