Great results for crested newts

16 February 2017

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Right to left: Douglas Spinks Deputy CEO WBC, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, Andrew Sells Chairman of NE, ADAS Ecology Consultant, Green Infrastructure Manager Tracey Haskins and Officer James Stanfield at Bonsey Lane

The Chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, visited Westfield Common in Woking, site of the works for the Great Crested Newt (GCN) Habitat Improvement Plan, on Thursday 16 February.

Mr Sells was accompanied on the tour of Westfield Common by Woking Borough Councils Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks and Deputy Chief Executive Officer Douglas Spinks

During the visit, the group viewed recent works that have been undertaken around the site, including scrub clearance and desilting to improve existing ponds. Principal Ecologist working on the project, James Simpson spent time explaining the process, describing works complete so far and answering questions from the group.

Chairman Andrew Sells said:

Woking Borough Council showed us an excellent example of how habitat can be improved to accommodate the great crested newt, which can struggle when their populations become isolated. Creating connected habitats across the country is the single most positive thing we can do for their survival, by allowing them to spread naturally.

At the same time, the strategic approach to licensing helps developers to avoid costs and delays to their projects. This approach is key to helping us ensure that regulation better serves both the natural environment and the economy.

Were extremely proud to be working with Woking Borough Council on this project. The vision theyve shown in recognising the benefits of biodiversity will not only enrich the quality of life of their residents, but help to secure the future of this fascinating species.

Woking Borough Councils Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, said: We were delighted to welcome Andrew Sells to Woking to discover the works that have been undertaken so far. The new habitat improvements on Westfield Common will help developers to deliver crucial new developments without delay whilst at the same time ensuring the conservation of the great crested newt in the best possible manner for the species.

Organisational licence

The Great Crested Newt Habitat Improvement Plan is part of a joint pilot initiative by Natural England and Woking Borough Council to ensure better conservation of the species by creating or enhancing habitat for the GCN on suitable sites prior to development work taking place.

The GCN is a European Protected Species, it is illegal to capture, kill, injure or disturb them without a licence.

Woking Borough Council was issued an organisational licence by Natural England in 2016 as part of the pilot scheme, allowing it to survey and map all areas where the GCN is most prevalent. Following the implementation of proactive habitat improvement works, the Council can now authorise operations that may affect the GCN on individual development sites at the same time as planning permission, instead of developers needing to carry out detailed surveys, secure planning permission then separately request a licence from Natural England to disturb the newts.

The approach will save developers time and money whilst they continue to build vital homes for the Borough and at the same time help the local GCN population become more healthy and resilient. The second stage of works will continue next winter.

For further information, contact Green Infrastructure Manager Tracey Haskins on 01483 743477 or via email Tracey.Haskins@woking.gov.uk

In the photo (left to right): Douglas Spinks Deputy, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, Andrew Sells, James Simpson, Green Infrastructure Manager Tracey Haskins and Officer James Stanfield at Westfield Common.