A Natural England scheme has boosted Essex’s pond habitats in just five months, helping to protect the UK’s threatened population of great crested newts.
The district level licensing initiative has led to the creation or restoration of 40 ponds across the county since it launched in March this year.
Investing in habitat The scheme works by taking payments from building developers and investing them in four times the number of pond habitats that would have been impacted by their construction projects.
In the past, landowners and housing developers in Essex had to apply for a licence before building on or around the newts’ pond habitat – on a site-by-site basis. Seasonal restrictions led to delays and uncertainty over the costs and scheduling of planned development.
Largest scheme yet Essex’s scheme is the largest district level licensing scheme to date, covering all 15 of the county’s planning authorities – an area of around 3,600 square kilometres.
The area has traditionally been a stronghold for the great crested newt, which are present in around 46% of the county’s ponds. But they’re under threat.
Despite being defended under UK and EU law, the iconic and rare amphibian has seen its preferred pond habitat decline by 50% over the last 60 years. And that’s contributed to the dramatic decline in the creature’s population. District level licensing aims to reverse that decline.
Essex was selected as a priority for the scheme due to the scale of development in the county.