New dataset from Natural England may provide a more streamlined process for developers whilst delivering a more strategic approach to great crested newt conservation
On the 20th November 2019 Natural England published the results from the great crested newt (GCN) eDNA (environmental DNA) and Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) surveys. These surveys were undertaken throughout England in 2018 and 2019 to inform conservation strategies for District Level Licensing (DLL). The HSI surveys assessed the suitability of ponds for GCN, and the eDNA surveys were used to determine the presence or absence of GCN within ponds. The data collected will be used to build a species distribution model at a county level and will be updated annually with data generated through the monitoring of DLL compensation habitat. The data will also be used as a basis for developing an area strategy for applicants wanting to apply for a DLL organisational licence.
Instead of using the traditional GCN licensing approach, DLL seeks to provide GCN habitat in areas likely to connect and expand the population on a county level. This approach can save time for developers as it avoids the traditional GCN mitigation approach such as trapping and relocating newts and the need for compensation areas within the development boundary. DLL instead replaces the requirement for surveys and a site-specific licence with a financial contribution to conservation scheme designers, funded by the developer, that is used to aid to local conservation of GCN through pond creation and habitat management. This in turn gives a more strategic approach to GCN conservation with targeted conservation effort in strategic areas shown to most likely connect and expand existing GCN populations.
The results from the eDNA surveys also give a good overview of landscape wide GCN metapopulations and are a useful tool for consultants when researching a site and assess the need for surveys. At Ricardo we are looking forward to the 2020 GCN survey season and working within counties trialling DLL.
What does this mean for my development?
If your development falls within an area running the DLL scheme then you may be able to opt-in. This removes the need for traditional surveys, therefore minimising delays associated with the seasonal constraints and multiple visits associated with the more traditional survey methods. Not all site locations allow for the DLL approach so highlighting sites early before the GCN survey season starts (March onwards) will give enough time for ecological constraints to be highlighted.
Image: 'Natural England’s dataset of HSI and eDNA surveys across England'
How can Ricardo support you with your development?
At Ricardo we have a team of experienced ecologists who will be able to advise you on whether your site falls within a DLL area and how to assess other ecological constraints within your site. For further information on services we can provide please contact Lisa Peirce (firstname.lastname@example.org).