• Press Release
  • May 15, 2018
  • United Kingdom

Arcadis wins Defra/Natural England framework contract to support District Licensing of Great Crested Newts

United Kingdom - The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and Natural England have appointed Arcadis to a high-profile framework agreement to conduct ecological surveys on 1,500 ponds across the UK. The Ecology team will be working closely with supply-chain partners to survey ponds across four key areas: South Yorkshire, East Riding and Lincolnshire; Staffordshire and Shropshire; Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Oxfordshire; and Essex.

Great crested newts (GCNs) are fully protected under European and domestic legislation; the Habitats Directive places an obligation on the UK to achieve their Favourable Conservation Status.  Although declining overall, GCN are still widespread and relatively common in some areas in which developments are planned. However, the current licensing system to allow development in these areas can cause delays, requiring considerable time, cost and effort to resolve.  Natural England wants to improve conservation outcomes for GCN and planning outcomes for developers.  

To this end, a strategic scheme known as ‘District Licensing’ is being rolled out.  Each district is divided into zones of different levels of risk to the local conservation status of GCNs, and this determines the approach that is required from an individual developer in a particular location.  In tandem, areas of compensatory habitat are set aside to be enhanced for GCNs within a district.  Developers affecting GCNs contribute to the management and maintenance of this compensatory habitat at a scale determined by the impacts of the development, rather than conserve GCNs within their individual development sites.

Natural England is currently promoting the roll-out of the district licensing approach to local planning authorities following a pilot project in Woking in 2016-17. The current Framework arrangement is to establish a GCN baseline within districts that will last for at least two years, and potentially extend to 2022.  

This work builds on Arcadis’ successful partnership with Natural England in 2013/2014, where 3000 ponds were surveyed, and 700 eDNA samples were collected, within very tight timeframes.

Paola Reason, Technical Director at Arcadis, commented: 

“The UK is facing considerable pressure to speed up development and boost economic growth, but it’s imperative that this isn’t to the detriment of the natural environment.  However, the current site-by-site approach to GCN mitigation is often expensive, without necessarily securing conservation benefits.  District Licensing, if built on adequate baseline data on the distribution of GCNs, has the potential to implement appropriate protection measures at a landscape scale, to the benefit of GCNs and the UK economy.”

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