Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about the new scheme, how it impacts on the planning permission procedure and other miscellaneous Q & As below.
Is it mandatory?
No, the new system is entirely voluntary. If developers wish to, they can continue to commission their own newt surveys and apply to Natural England for their own individual newt licences.
How does it work?
Developers contact NatureSpace and pay for a certificate (or report) that they submit with their planning application. Any future impact that they have on newts is then covered under the ‘District Licence’.
The charge to developers is proportionate to their likely impact on great crested newt populations, which depends on where the development is and how large it is. Where the likely impacts on newts are low (especially in the white and green risk zones – 60% of the region – see map on back page), the developer will pay to NatureSpace a one-off charge and receive a certificate. This certificate means that no further actions are necessary with respect to great crested newts.
When the impacts of development are potentially higher (either because the development is large or because it is situated in a red or amber zone – see map), then the developer pays a standard fee to NatureSpace to analyse the specific details of the development. In many cases, this analysis will show that no further payments are necessary and the developer will simply submit the NatureSpace report alongside his planning application. In some cases though, where it is found that significant impact is likely, the developer will be required to make a second payment, and this must then be done at least 6 months prior to commencement of development.
How do I get planning permission and what will it cost?
Simply submit the accredited NatureSpace certificate or report (which will have been registered with the LPA) to prove you have entered the District Licence scheme and apply for planning permission just as you normally would. There is nothing else you need to do to deal with any great crested newt issues.
Charges will vary according to the size of the development and it’s location. The table below shows the process and range of charges. For large developments in sensitive areas charges are capped at £90k*, but for most applications (i.e. developments of <10 houses in the white or green zones) the only cost is a fixed charge of £1k.
Whatever the appropriate charge is calculated to be, it is set out in advance, giving you complete certainty on all future costs relating to newts before you apply for planning permission.
Do I have to do my own newt survey?
No, no newt surveys are necessary, which means the whole process can run at any time of the year and there are never any delays to your development – saving you time and money. Basic environmental information is required to allow the metric to be run and, in some cases, further information allows refinement of (a reduction in) the estimated impacts – so it is to your advantage to supply this information, usually through your environmental consultant, where it is available.
Do I then have to apply to Natural England after I get permission?
No. Provided your development proposal meets the requirements for the district licence scheme, the LPA can authorise your development under their own District Licence – you do not need to separately apply to Natural England.
What happens if I subsequently find newts?
Developers that have entered the scheme are covered by the District Licence – just as if they had applied for and secured a standard sitebased licence under the existing system. No further mitigation action is required and any actions you take with respect to newts, as long as they comply with the planning permission and the licence conditions, are covered by the District Licence.
Do I have to do any newt mitigation or compensation on my development site?
In most cases, no. There may sometimes be mitigation requirements (e.g. timing restrictions, or a need to retain an area of particularly important habitat) but on-site requirements are invariably reduced.
How long do I need to pay for management and monitoring after my development has been completed?
You don’t. There will be no long-term financial responsibilities or any other requirements for you. Economies of scale mean that the payment you make to the scheme will deliver all long-term monitoring and management, and this will be delivered by NatureSpace.
Can I publicise my involvement in the scheme?
Yes, we would be pleased to help with a range of publicity material should developers wish to publicise their financial support of the South Midlands great crested newt conservation strategy
Why is it only happening in the South Midlands?
District Licensing is being rolled out nationally over the next two years. Further regional schemes are expected in 2019.
The great crested newt map for the South Midlands
There are no newts where I am, why should I pay?
Actually 70% of the land within the South Midlands is within 500 metres of a pond (walking distance for a newt)
Under the standard process, if you are within 500m of a pond you would need to do a newt survey to find out if newts are there or not
Under this scheme you do not need to pay for surveys to find out if newts are there or not
The amount you pay is fair – it is dependent upon the location and scale of your proposed development
By covering your development under the district licence, you remove the risk of having to stop work if you find newts on site – under the licence, if you do find a newt, you can move it and carry on works immediately
Even in the white zone, where there is a low risk of newts, if you do not have a licence and then find a newt, you need to stop work and seek a licence from Natural England. This causes lengthy and costly delays on site. Even in the white zone, it is worth paying the nominal fee to have your development covered under the planning authority’s district licence – to remove the risk of having to stop work for newts.
What if there are lots of newts where I am?
Under the district licensing scheme, you are allowed to undertake certain licensable activities (such as removing newt habitat, moving newts, etc.)
In the highest risk areas (red zones), which are the most important areas for newts, if you are developing on good wildlife habitat you may need to catch newts and move them away from harm
In any zone, if there are newts on your site, you can move them under the licence
In exceptional cases, a development site may be of such importance to the newt population that you have to keep some habitat for the newts
Or what if I don’t know there’s newts?
That’s fine, you don’t need to – if you pay into the scheme, you will benefit from the huge regional survey and the modelling and analysis we have already done.
Under the NatureSpace scheme, you no longer have to do a survey to find out if you have newts on or around your development site
With some basic site information from you, we will assess your development proposal to work out where your site is, what the likely impacts will be and what your requirements will be under this scheme –– we do not need detailed newt survey information from you to do this.
Does the pond have to be on my land?
No. Any pond within 500m of your proposed scheme means you have newt considerations – this includes ponds on land owned by others, behind fences and over roads. If in doubt, please ask.
Will the impact map be provided in a high definition format?
We cannot put a higher resolution map on the website at the moment, without causing loss of speed etc to the website. We will confirm zone and costings when anyone sends us basic development details and a boundary map for the development site. There is no obligation, no charge and you will get the answer within 3 working days.
Reptile fencing – can reptile fencing be used as a crossover mitigation method?
In the red zone, where it is a requirement that best practice be followed, then any amphibian fencing needs to conform to the usual standards for amphibian fencing (and in this respect, the ‘Great Crested Newt Mitigation Principles’ as referenced in the district licences and written specifically for the South Midlands district licensing scheme refer to the Great Crested Newt Mitigation Guidelines). Outside the red zone, where fencing is recommended, it should still follow best practice – and so be designed and installed according to the guidance in the GCN Mitigation Guidelines. If reptile fencing is used on a development site as a reptile mitigation method and newts are found as well, providing the development site is covered by a district licence, then any newts also captured in this crossover method can still be moved.
Is the district licensing report sufficient for use in an Environmental Statement?
A region-wide survey and modelling exercise provided the foundation for the district licensing – Natural England accepted the adequacy of this in granting the licences. The scheme involves an impact assessment (a detailed impact assessment for potentially moderate to high impact schemes), plus an assessment of the mitigation hierarchy and an outcome for avoidance/mitigation/compensation based on the agreed protocols of the district licences. This should be sufficient to inform the great crested newt section of an Environmental Statement.
What is “low capture” defined as in the reduced mitigation measures under District Licensing?
No more than 9 GCN in the last 5 days of the capture period, with no more than 4 GCN in any 1 day. Conditions must be suitable for newt movement and capture.
Will monitoring results be made publicly available?
Yes, monitoring data will be provided to the local biological records centres.
If NatureSpace were to cease to exist, how does this affect client coverage?
Once payment is made a certificate or report is issued and the client is covered for the duration of the licence, irrespective of what does or doesn’t happen to NSP. Note that NSP pays into the newt conservation fund (the SMNCP) every month, so no monies are retained from the conservation strategy. If NSP does cease trading, which is highly unlikely, all the permissions issued to that date (including those at outline) will have contributed to the conservation strategy and will be covered under the Licence.
What information is needed for an assessment?
You will need a qualified ecologist to fill out an application form to provide an overview of the development and which habitats and aquatic features will be impacted onsite. Details of any surveys already carried out should also be included. As well as the application form, the following GIS data should be supplied:
Location of all ponds onsite and within 500m of the site;
Phase 1 survey data for the site;
Impact plan (which areas will be retained and lost*);
Designated and protected sites on or adjacent to site (if applicable).
* The Impacts plan should be fixed and not subject to change – this plan will be referenced in the planning consent, if granted.
What format should GIS data be supplied in?
We utilise QGIS in our assessments and as such, data should be supplied in shapefile format. Please remember to send through all the associated files (SHX, DBF, CPG, PRJ, SBN, SBX etc.) with the SHP file (in a compressed zip folder if the files are large).
Unfortunately, we cannot accept AutoCAD or DWF files at this time, but you can easily export or convert these to SHP files. We can accept DXF files with a confirmed EPSG coordinate reference system but SHP file format is preferable.
If you can’t find the answers you’re after or you require more detailed information on any of the above, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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