THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO NEWT SURVEYS
So, you have put in your planning application. The local planning authority has stated an ecological newt survey is required. You probably have a few questions.
Below is probably the most comprehensive guide to newt surveys available online. We hope this guide answers everything there is to know about bat surveys.
- Why do I need a newt survey?
- Will I need to carry out a survey?
- Deciding if you need newt surveys
- I think we need a newt survey
- What happens during a newt survey?
- Mitigation and compensation for newt species
- What happens after a protect newt species licence is granted?
- What happens if we discover newts after development has started?
- How much does a newt survey cost?
Why do I need a Newt survey?
Well, it’s not uncommon especially if you are demolishing a building, breaking ground or your development is close to a water source.
Although smooth and palmate newts are not protected by law in the UK the larger Great Crested Newt receives full legal protection under the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
If a habitat shows potential for newts on a development site, our fully licensed ecology consultants will be able to advise on the best survey solutions.
At this point, we’d like to give you some good news. Great Crested Newts almost never stop your development.
But what is the newt survey and mitigation process? Firstly, the need for great crested newt surveys will generally be identified at the time of a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal also know as a Habitat Walkover or Phase 1 Survey.
If the potential for newts is shown, then environmental DNA and presence newt surveys (sometimes referred to as bottle trap surveys) may need to be completed. These newt surveys need to show whether great crested newts are present in the area, what populations are like and how they use the site.
If protected species are detected, then a mitigation plan is designed to show how you’ll avoid, reduce or manage any negative effects on them. Working with your ecologist you need to decide which methods are right for the project you’re working on.
A mitigation licence from Natural England is required. Once received the moving of newts to a new home can then take place.
Will I need to carry out Newt surveys?
Most likely. Especially if your development is within 500m of a pond or water source.
If your plans are to carry out development works which could disrupt or harm newts or their habitats. If your local planning authority has asked for an ecology newt survey then you will need to carry out a protected species survey.
Typically demolition of a building, barn conversions, house extensions and change of land use all require great crested newt surveys and potential mitigation.
Deciding if you need Newt surveys
Great Crested Newts and other protected species can be affected by lots of construction work including:
- demolition of buildings
- extensions that affect land usage
- wind turbines
- barn conversions
- removal of trees or hedgerows
- removal or change of land use, such as meadow to grazing
- building or maintenance of roads
You’re more likely to need Newt surveys if the land has favourable features such as:
- a watercourse or body within 500 meters
- has damp patches or bogs such as field soakaways
- is close to woodland or water
- has hedgerows and trees
- has unmanaged grass
- has moss available
You’re likely to need a Newt survey for land-use change if it:
- is in ancient woodland
- is large with good growth
- has damp mossy areas
- has unmanaged grass
- has hedgerows or trees
- is close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Local nature reserve.
I think we need a Newt survey
If your planning or development has any of the above bullet points ticked then, YES! you need newt surveys.
So what actually happens during the newt survey process?
Well, it’s fairly simple. Newts will almost never stop your development.
What happens during a Newt survey?
So, now you’ve established why you need a survey, you maybe be wondering what happens during the Newt survey process.
The Great Crested Newt survey process is simple. It generally starts with a preliminary habitat assessment and if evidence or potential of Newts, we can determine the types of survey that would suit the development best for Phase 2. These may include:
- Habitat suitability index (HSI) assessments
- Presence/absence surveys involving bottle/funnel trapping, refuge searches and egg searches
- Newt Environmental DNA Analysis
However, if your site holds a confirmed Newt population then the third phase of mitigation and licensing may be required.
If your local planning authority has asked for a newt survey then you will need to contact a licensed ecologist.
Typically, after a phone or email consultation, the ecologist will then require a visit to your site to undertake a Phase 1 preliminary habitat assessment.
Preliminary habitat assessments
For most planning permission applications or development projects involving newts or other protected, it is appropriate to start with a Phase 1 preliminary habitat assessment also known as a Walkover Survey.
Preliminary habitat assessments involve an initial inspection of a habitat to identify the potential for great crested newts and other species.
As well as an assessment of the building and surrounding habitat to support newts, a phase 1 newt survey may require a data records search. Meaning, records such as known newt populations, previous mitigation sites and the location of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local Nature Reserves (LNR) are obtained. These desk-based assessments are a requirement and are usually purchased from third party biological records centres or county councils.
If the habitat itself does not show evidence or potential for newts then this information can sometimes be enough to provide an assessment of whether they are likely to be present on-site and whether they are likely to be impacted upon by the development.
After the data is collected your ecologist will compile a detailed report outlining any further steps, if any, that may be required.
Presence Newt Surveys
Should evidence or potential for Great Crested Newts be identified then an environmental DNA test and further newt survey effort may be required. This next stage is known as bottle trapping newt surveys also known as activity or population surveys.
Unlike preliminary habitat assessments, which can be carried out year-round, presence newt surveys will need to be undertaken between May and August.
The weather conditions must ideally be dry. This is to stop dilution of DNA from any fresh rainwater.
The environmental DNA testing is carried out at any time during the day, whilst bottle trap newt surveys are conducted at dusk and dawn to establish the species population whilst they are most active.
Mitigation and compensation for newts
Should evidence show that newts are identified via presence surveys, then a final step of mitigation and compensation will be required.
Working with your ecology consultant you will design a mitigation plan. This involves applying to Natural England for a protected species licence.
However, you will need planning permission to have been granted prior to applying for this licence.
For the licence to be granted, a mitigation strategy will be required that could involve timings of works, installation of mitigation strategies.
The mitigation plan will address the potential impacts on newts and other protected species and must avoid negative effects on newt populations, such as small alternations to project designs or delayed work which may expose the habitat.
If this is not possible, the use of alternative mitigation measures to reduce the impacts must be implemented.
Mitigation and compensation methods can include:
- Changing work methods or timing to avoid breeding periods. For example, work to be complete during winter on summer roosts.
- Creating new habitats within the same or on neighbouring site
- Improving or creating habitats. Such as new foraging areas or pond
- Long term management of habitats
- Newt population monitoring after the development
What happens after a protect species licence is granted?
So all the correct paperwork is in place and Natural England has granted your protect species licence. Congratulations.
But what happens next?
The ecologist, architect, construction company and yourself will decide on a date whereby work will be started. The ecology consultant will take one or both of two main steps:
- Implement any compensation measures for newts before works are undertaken.
- And/or – Be on-site to undertake ecological clerk of works measures during a soft break of any areas where any species are identified.
Once any newts are ‘mitigated’ into the new habitat, works can continue as normal.
What happens if we discover newts after development has started?
Stop all work immediately.
Continuing work is likely to be breaking the law if newts are found during development works.
Get in touch with your ecologist who will come and mitigate your newt.
How much does a newt survey cost?
Well, it’s hard to accurately say as it varies greatly. There are many factors to take into account.
Phase 1 preliminary habitat assessments and presence surveys range from between £300 – £1000 depending on the ecologists’ fees, location of the development and size or complexity of the site.
Typically, environmental DNA water sampling and eDNA analysis tests start from £249 per water source or Bat speciation.
As of April 2019, and despite very strong opposition from ecology consultancies including ourselves, Natural England introduced hourly charges for the mitigation licence.