Land broker Aston Mead has welcomed a new test devised by Natural England, to detect the DNA of great crested newts in ponds and streams.
The test, piloted in Woking, Surrey, means that developers and councils may soon be able to resolve issues over the legally protected animals, without the current lengthy surveys to find and count them.
Aston Mead Land & Planning Director Charles Hesse said, “This is the sort of simple test that developers all over the country have been calling for. It will allow councils to balance the protection of valuable wildlife habitats with the requirement to provide desperately needed new homes.
“Without a definitive process like this, developers have to put construction on hold – for months – after the discovery of just a single newt, projects have suffered long delays, often adding tens of thousands of pounds in costs.”
The great crested newt is protected under EU law, so licensed ecologists have to carry out four time consuming surveys to establish their presence. If discovered, developers must apply for a licence to disturb them, before painstakingly re-homing them one by one.
The test means that developers will no longer be required to move individual newts, as long as councils protect the biggest populations and best habitats.
Charles Hesse added, “This is not about riding roughshod over important ecological sites. The technology will identify areas where great crested newts are most prevalent and should be protected – development will be guided away from these places towards suitable locations.”