Figure 1; NE plan of distribution of GCN EPSML activity in 2015 and 2016; provided at CIEEM webinar; available here.  Red – highest areas of EPSMLs granted. Green – lowest.  Uncoloured – no EPSML granted.

Bakerwell recently reported on the new district great crested newt (GCN) licensing approach being rolled out nationally by Natural England (NE).  Following attendance at a recent CIEEM webinar from Natural England and attending a consultants forum with Natural England we are able to provide updates on this.

District licensing will not replace site by site licensing, but will run alongside it. Where local authorities hold a district license this will cover foreseen development in that district. Site by site licensing will still be used where a site may come forward that is not accounted for in the plan, or may be more suitable where a developer is retaining GCN habitat on site.

District licensing will build on the Woking Pilot, where NE issued an organisation licence to the Local Authority (LA).  Woking Borough Council can now authorise operations that may affect GCN on development sites when granting planning permission.  Developers opting in pay a contribution towards creation and management of habitat in important areas for this species.  They are generally not required to survey prior to obtaining planning, and will not have to obtain site based licences after planning is granted or trap and relocate newts; resulting in significant cost and delay savings. Links to the consultation documents, Woking Borough Council pilot and other licensing resources are available on our resources page.

District licensing starts by establishing distribution of great crested newts at district level.  NE will examine the local plan to assess impacts on GCN from development and will advise the LA where it is most important to avoid/retain their habitat. The scale of habitat compensation needed and areas where habitat compensation will provide most benefit to this protected species will also be identified.  LAs will provide and secure compensatory habitat and will be expected to maintain this habitat for no less than 25 years.

Key points on the national roll out of district licensing are as follows:

  • District licensing will initially be aimed in the areas of the most licensing activity
  • Willingness of LAs to sign up to district licensing will also play a part
  • The aim is to sign up 150 districts in the next 3 years
  • In the year commencing April 2017, the target is 20 districts
  • NE are aiming to bring a further 65 districts per year in the following two years
  • Up to ¾ of site by site licensing is anticipated to be replaced in the districts that sign up
  • Tariff rates will be set on a district by district basis
  • Some initial compensatory habitat provision will be provided
  • Subsequent habitat provision will be funded by developer contributions
  • The three year program aims to review 9,000 ponds across the country
  • LA organisational licences will be reviewed every two years
  • This review will be supported by monitoring and performance
  • If a risk to GCN conservation status is identified there is the opportunity not to renew the licence

Further information will be provided by NE via their European Protected Species newsletter, and various stakeholder engagements. Bakerwell will keep you updated on this very topical subject, watch this space.


1 Natural England. (February 2017). National Roll Out of New Approach to Great Crested Newt Licensing. Available from: (Accessed 16th March 2017).

2 Horswill, P and Cameron, R. (March 2017).  CIEEM Webinar – Natural England’s New EPS Licencing Policies. Available from: