Telford & Wrekin Council has been building and restoring ponds for newts, using money from developers, to help speed developments through the planning process.
The scheme sees it become one of the first local authorities to be granted a special district level newt licence by Natural England.
The work has been done by the council’s in-house development consultancy APT, which provides advice to businesses on planning, building regulations and highway engineering services.
By This will help it provide better sites for the borough’s newt population while helping development projects, subject to planning permission, to be approved more quickly and cost effectively.
Mark Latham, ecology and green infrastructure specialist at APT, said: “We have around 1,000 ponds across the Telford & Wrekin borough and they are something of a hotspot for great crested newts. Under the scheme, conservation payments from developers are used to restore and improve newt habitats which will allow the number of newts to grow.”
He said that £20,000 had been invested so far at 12 sites in the borough to create or enhance existing ponds used by newts. This has been done in advance so developers can hit the ground running when the scheme opens.
Councillor Carolyn Healy, responsible for environment matters, said: “We are a very green borough and it’s great that we have the first such scheme to be fully administered by a council. Here nine in 10 households are within 300 metres of green space and we’re protecting more green spaces than ever with 16 local nature reserves in the borough, many of which are home to great crested newts, as well as over 200 ‘green guarantee’ spaces. With this licence we can create high quality habitats where we know newts can thrive, doing even more to protect the species.
“At the same time we can reduce the cost of regulation and speed up the licencing process, which helps developers.”
Jen Almond, Natural England’s district level licensing programme manager, said: “District level licensing is transforming an area of regulation from one that has been problematic for great crested newts and people into one that is a real conservation success story. Telford & Wrekin’s ambition and drive make this bespoke, locally-led scheme a win-win for both local developers and the future of this iconic species."
APT will be explaining more about the scheme through a webinar on 25th August 2020 at 8.30am. Registration is available at https://bit.ly/apTGCNewtLicence