Bakerwell met with Natural England (NE) this week to discuss the revised district licensing scheme for great crested newts (GCN) in Kent. In addition to the current standard licensing option, participating developers will be able, if NE finds their scheme suitable, to pay a conservation payment for off site habitat creation, restoration, management and monitoring and remove the requirement for in depth surveys, on site mitigation, compensation and lengthy trapping programs.

Natural England are aiming for the scheme to be launched in early 2019, subject to completing final checks, strategies and guidance on the scheme.  For the Kent scheme developers can choose one of two options:

  • Submit survey data when applying: eDNA data, within the last two years, will be sufficient.
  • Submit without survey data: this removes the seasonal constraint for GCN surveys.

The calculation of the conservation payment will be based on the cost for a single compensatory pond, currently set at £15,165 + VAT, the number of ponds, the level of impact and a multiplier.

Where survey data is available this will be used to allocate a multiplier, based on whether the pond is occupied, unsurveyed or unoccupied. Where survey data is not available the multiplier will be based on the location of the site within predetermined risk zones as defined by NE.

This acknowledges that developers may use eDNA surveys to establish whether there are any GCN ponds present within 250m of their site to identify whether a licence (and therefore any contribution) is required in the first instance.  Where this data has been collected it will help monitoring of the number of occupied ponds lost.

The following are of note for the scheme in Kent:

  • Sites will be chosen for the scheme based on number of ponds NE have available as compensation and if the scheme falls outside a red risk zone
  • This does not include other protected species, therefore reptile fencing and translocations will still be required if reptiles are present on site
  • All ponds on site will be considered as functionally lost even if retained
  • All habitats on site within 250m of off site ponds will be included
  • A certificate will need to be obtained from NE before submitting a planning application
  • Licence applications will be submitted to NE following grant of planning permission
  • Natural England will take between 10-30 working days to evaluate the licence application
  • Outline permission with ecology conditions cleared will be sufficient to submit an application

Applicants will obtain confirmation of the conservation payment from Natural England prior to submission of a planning application.  If the applicant wishes to proceed with the strategic approach, a certificate is issued for submission with the planning application.

The licence application is then submitted following grant of planning permission.  Once the conservation payment is made to Natural England and the licence granted the development can proceed without the requirement for GCN fencing or translocations* and the costs and time constraints associated with these measures.

*It is important to note that this scheme will not remove the requirement for measures to be undertaken to avoid and mitigate harm to other protected species and obtain licences prior to commencement of development, where required.