Great crested newts at more than half of District Licence Scheme’s pond sites  

The latest monitoring report from the Newt Conservation Partnership, published on 3rd February 2024, shows that great crested newts have already colonised more than half of pond sites created through the District Licence Scheme that launched in 2018.  

The report from the Newt Conservation Partnership includes monitoring data on habitat created and restored between 2018 and 2023. The protected amphibian was recorded at 58% of the pond sites developed through the scheme. This number is expected to increase as these new habitats become more established. 

Great crested newts have declined dramatically in the UK over the last 50 years. Habitat loss is the biggest threat to the species, so developers are required to compensate for their proposed impacts by funding pond restoration and creation. For each great crested newt-occupied pond lost to development, the Newt Conservation Partnership creates or restores at least four compensation ponds in suitable locations away from the development site.  

Another much-loved amphibian, the ‘at risk’ common toad was recorded at 35 ponds created or restored through the scheme. The ponds more than doubled national levels for plant diversity, averaging 17 species compared with seven wetland plant species in an average English countryside pond. 

In addition, more than half of the ponds developed by the Newt Conservation Partnership have already reached Priority habitat status, with nationally uncommon plant species recorded at some sites.  

Great crested newts spend most of their lives on land, returning to ponds to breed, so the partnership also delivers high quality terrestrial habitat. Between February 2018 and December 2023, the Newt Conservation Partnership created or restored 358 ponds and provided 1,149 hectares of suitable terrestrial habitat for great crested newts.  

The ponds created between three and five years ago were found to be more likely to be populated by great crested newts than the newer ponds, suggesting that the number of colonised ponds will increase. 

Dr Pascale Nicolet, CEO of the Newt Conservation Partnership said: “Our report clearly demonstrates that we are delivering for great crested newt.  

“Our approach is based on the expertise of two charities with decades of knowledge and experience in habitat creation and restoration. We know that great crested newts need clean, unpolluted water and high-quality terrestrial habitat and we also know that habitats need to be connected, creating a network so the species can naturally colonise. Of course, this is the same for other freshwater life, so we are delighted – but not surprised – to see that our ponds are also delivering for other animals, such as the common toad, as well as many rare plants.” 

Dr Tom Tew, CEO of NatureSpace said: “We are overjoyed to see the positive outcomes for great crested newts and many other freshwater species reflected in the Newt Conservation Partnership’s latest monitoring results from the fifth year of the NatureSpace District Licence Scheme.

“The results are a testament to the knowledge and experience of our dedicated colleagues who ensure that District Licensing continues to deliver top-tier conservation for newts.”

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A compensation pond at three years after creation. New ponds vegetate rapidly by natural colonisation.