New for newts: better for wildlife, business and people

1 Mar 2019 12:52 PM

An innovative approach by Natural England to protect great crested newts and encourage sustainable development was yesterday (28 February) launched in Kent.

Developers in Kent can now apply for a licence under District Level Licensing (DLL) for great crested newts (GCN). It follows our announcement of a nationwide roll-out of great crested newt District Level Licensing in 2017.

GCNs are widely distributed throughout lowland England. However the species has suffered enormous declines, with approximately 50% of ponds in the UK lost in the 20th Century and 80% of current ponds in a poor state. The current licensing system is focused on management to prevent harm on individual development sites rather than addressing the wider health of GCN populations. Our new approach seeks to redress this balance, encouraging targeted efforts towards provision of GCN habitat in areas where surveys show it will most effectively connect and expand GCN populations.

This new approach will increase GCN populations at a county level. It will also reduce delays for developers. Under the current licensing approach, developers who want to build on land which is home to GCNs need to trap and relocate the species before starting work. Seasonal restrictions, where these are not effectively planned for, can lead delays and create uncertainty over the costs and scheduling of planned development.

Through the District Level Licensing scheme in Kent, developers no longer need to do this. Instead developers can make a conservation payment which will cover creating or restoring ponds in areas away from the development. These areas, mapped by Natural England, represent the best places for newts to thrive and habitat created here will be maintained and monitored for 25 years, all funded by developers.

As well as being good for GCN, it is estimated that District Level Licensing will reduce delays and costs for developers and regulators across England, saving hundreds of millions of pounds.

In Kent, several of the Countryside Management Partnerships have already begun successfully working with landowners to restore and create compensatory ponds for great crested newts in preparation for development commencing. Thirty-two ponds in Kent have been created and restored, and a further 30 are expected to be restored and created by end of March 2019. This means the scheme has a ‘bank’ of ponds before it opens and developers start getting involved. This new habitat will help join up existing newt populations, making them more healthy and resilient.

Marian Spain, Natural England’s interim chief executive, yesterday said:

For over two years, Natural England’s local and national staff have been working tirelessly with external partners on a new, more strategic approach to great crested newt licensing. This has resulted in the opening of the District Level Licensing scheme in Kent - a victory for wildlife, business and people.

New compensatory habitat will be created in locations to best benefit great crested newts and, at the same time, developers can avoid costly delays to build homes for new communities. The launch of this scheme, a landscape-scale way of working championed in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, shows we are committed to ensuring environmental regulation better serves both the natural environment and the economy.

Natural England worked with a number of partner organisations to pull together existing data and surveys on the presence, absence and habitats of great crested newts in Kent, in addition to setting up an expert panel on great crested newts which will bring together expertise from NGOs, government and universities. This data was then used to develop the evidence-based model on which the scheme is based.

District Level Licensing is expected to replace around 77% of current site-based mitigation and organisational licensing for great crested newts. Funds from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and contributions from developers, including Berkeley Homes, Pentland Homes, Quinn Estates and Redrow, have been used to develop the project and to contribute to the initial creation of new habitat.

Nick Fenton, from the Kent Developers Group, yesterday said:

Having worked closely with Natural England over the past two years on the development of District Level Licensing for great crested newts we see the scheme as a major step forward as not only does it safeguard important environmental habitats it enables developers to play an active role in the process. Having a streamlined scheme in place will also help speed up the delivery of much needed development, whether it is residential, commercial property or infrastructure, and support economic growth.

Rob Jarman, Head of Planning and Development at Maidstone Borough Council, yesterday said:

We have worked closely with Natural England on the development of district level licensing for GCN in Kent for several years and are very supportive of the enterprising approach to bring planning and species licensing more closely together.

The new licensing scheme will enable strategically planned habitat creation to embed within Local Plans and Green Infrastructure Strategies and has the objective to create net gains in habitat in the most ideal locations for resilient populations.

For further enquiries please contact the Defra Group news desk on 0330 041 6560 or email For out of hours please call 0345 051 8486.

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For additional information and guidance on District Level Licensing for great crested newts please visit