New conservation scheme for great crested newts comes to East Sussex

NatureSpace today announced the expansion of its innovative District Licensing Scheme for great crested newts into eight new Local Planning Authorities across East Sussex. The scheme provides developers in the area with a quick, simple and risk-free solution and ensures hugely improved conservation outcomes for newts.

Great crested newts are a widespread but declining protected species in the UK, making them a key concern for both developers and conservationists across the country. The NatureSpace scheme, approved by Natural England, speeds up development delivery by providing a solution all year round, with no need for developers to wait for the survey window which runs from March-June.

Development impacts are properly accounted for in the planning process and the funding raised from developments using the scheme will pay for high quality, well managed habitats across East Sussex.

Today’s announcement increases the geographical area covered by the NatureSpace scheme by 20%, to 12,000km². East Sussex is an ideal area for the scheme since the county is a stronghold for great crested newts. The area also has plans for significant infrastructure improvements and other development over the coming years.

The additional areas now covered by the scheme are East Sussex County Council, Eastbourne Borough Council, Hastings Borough Council, Lewes District Council, Rother District Council, Wealden District Council, and Brighton and Hove City Council. The South Downs National Park Authority also has access to this licensing option for developments within East Sussex.

The scheme is accessible to all developers, from householders to major infrastructure and commercial development projects, and applicants can receive a free site assessment in just ten days.

NatureSpace CEO, Dr Tom Tew commented: “We are thrilled to be expanding into East Sussex with our eight new partner Local Planning Authorities – it’s great news for developers, planning authorities and for great crested newt conservation in the county.

“Since 2018, we have been supporting developers of all sizes and types with a simple and risk-free solution to meeting their great crested newt obligations. The scheme offers a much quicker, year-round solution for assessing sites, avoiding survey season restrictions and unforeseen delays. Once planning consent is granted, the developer can start work quickly without worrying about seeking a separate licence from Natural England for great crested newts – and with no long-term obligations.

“The scheme also delivers a landscape-scale compensation strategy that provides demonstrable net gain and long-term protection for great crested newt conservation.”

Ed Sheath, Head of Planning and Environment at East Sussex County Council, said: “The NatureSpace great crested newt District Licence Scheme is an excellent tool that benefits both local planning authorities and developers, whilst having benefits to the local natural environment.

“Across East Sussex, we envisage that there will be considerable take-up of developers utilising the District Licensing Scheme, which in turn will lead to the creation and ongoing maintenance of many ponds that benefit not just great crested newts, but also other species in the area.  We also envisage the district licensing scheme having a positive impact in terms of timeliness of planning decisions and minimising delays in implementing developments that have been granted permission.”

Cllr Kim Forward, Leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “As a council, we are pleased to be added to the District Licensing Scheme for great crested newts. It is essential that development undertaken in our borough considers the impact on this declining species. The introduction of this scheme means this can now easily be achieved.”

The scheme also ensures a sustainable future for great crested newts by creating and managing new long-term and landscape-scale habitats across the county.

Working in collaboration with the Newt Conservation Partnership and supported by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and the Freshwater Habitats Trust, the scheme funds creation, restoration and management of ponds, terrestrial habitat, and connectivity features. The scheme is currently creating eight high-quality new newt ponds for every one lost, providing net gain not only for great crested newts but also a wide range of other biodiversity.