Great Crested Newt Habitat Improvement Plan has begun
09 January 2017
Ground-breaking conservation work has begun on Westfield Common to create new habitat for Great Crested Newts (GCN). The work is the culmination of months of preparation by Woking Borough Council, in partnership with Natural England, for a pilot project which promises to enhance the population of the threatened species whilst reducing delays to major building projects.
The GCN is a European Protected Species, it is illegal to capture, kill, injure or disturb them without a licence.
Under the current system, developers on sites with GCN must carry out surveys and, if they are unable to avoid or mitigate impacts on the newts, must apply for a licence to move the animals before building work can begin. In 2016 Woking Borough Council was issued an organisational licence, following borough-wide survey work and the production of a local conservation plan for the GCN. The new approach will provide natural environment benefits and will help the GCN by providing a network of habitat, instead of trying to fit them in around development work. It will also allow a more straightforward process for developers, saving time and costs on vital building work in the Borough.
The most significant populations of GCN have been identified, guiding where habitat improvements will bring the greatest conservation benefit and highlighting locations where development can take place which will have minimal impact on the species. As part of the plan, the Council and Natural England outlined where habitat could be created, or improved, to compensate for any localised damage to the GCN habitat. Westfield Common was chosen as the first of these conservation sites and a Habitat Improvement Plan and a five year strategy of ongoing work and reviews were developed in consultation with a number of local and national organisations.
Portfolio Holder for Woking Borough Council’s Environment and Sustainability, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks said: “This project will help ensure that development which is essential for Woking Borough’s future prosperity remains in harmony with the natural landscape. We are proud to be working closely with Natural England to give the population of Great Crested Newts the care and attention it needs to thrive. We hope that the pilot scheme will be a success and set the standard of GCN conservation for local authorities across the country.”
The first stage of works at Westfield Common has commenced and will continue until the end of February 2017. These initial works focus on scrub clearance and the improvement of existing ponds. For further information, contact Green Infrastructure Manager Tracey Haskins on 01483 743477 or via email Tracey.Haskins@woking.gov.uk