The Cheshire Great Crested Newt Results Are In!
My name is Jen Almond and I work for Natural England. We are here to bring about nature’s recovery, and my role is to bring about better improved conservation outcomes for our largest native newt. As the District Level Licensing Programme Manager, I am responsible for rolling out a more strategic approach to licensing this European Protected Species, an approach called District Level Licensing (DLL).
This iconic species is almost black in colour, with spotted flanks and a striking, orange belly. Individuals can be identified by their bellies: their patterns of black spots are as unique as our fingerprints. As well as their distinctive crests, males have an extravagant courtship display to entice females. Under water, they arch their back and wave their tail around as if they are dancing!
Great crested newts are rare across Europe so we’re lucky in the UK to have internationally important numbers; however, they are sadly in decline due to changes in land use and habitat loss. Our nature recovery work at Natural England is about reversing that decline.
Under the traditional approach to licensing disturbance of great crested newts, developers who want to build on land where they are found must trap and relocate the species before starting work, simply keeping them out rather than helping to conserve their populations. The amount of money spent on survey, trapping and exclusion with plastic fencing can outstrip that spent on habitat creation and management by a massive 7:1. Seasonal restrictions can also lead to delays and create uncertainty over the costs and scheduling of planned development.
Conceived by Natural England, DLL offers an alternative approach to licensing whereby more habitat is created than lost to development (at a ratio of 4:1). Developers must pay for this new habitat based on the predicted impact of their development which covers the creation or restoration of ponds in areas modelled to make ‘more, bigger, better, more joined up’ great crested newt populations. New habitat is delivered by our experts on the ground like Cheshire Wildlife Trust and Cheshire East & Chester Council, and maintained and monitored for 25 years – all funded by the initial payment.
DLL is built upon a sound evidence base incorporating 7,518 new pond surveys and tens of thousands of existing records for the species. The approach utilises award-winning scientific modelling techniques to predict where great crested newts are, and where creating and restoring ponds will help support existing and link up local populations.