The great crested newt (Image: Witr/Dreamstime.com)
EU laws protecting Britain’s great crested newts are set to be repealed to help speed up developments, according to a report in the Financial Times.
The FT says it has been told by government figures that the EU Habitats Directive is among measures set to be repealed, citing the “excessive” protection given to the amphibian as a reason to change the law.
The great crested newt is endangered in some parts of Europe, but remains fairly common in England. However, EU legislation covers all 28 members with a single standard.
Removing the EU protection would aid developers wishing to build on newt habitats, although certain protections would still exist in UK law.
The government’s Housing White Paper this week highlighted the fact that the species can stall urgent house building projects and increase costs.
Meanwhile, Natural England has been piloting a new approach to dealing with the protection of the species. Initially trialled with Woking borough council in Surrey, the new scheme is set to be rolled out across the country.
Woking borough council has been looking at the impact on newts at the same time as planning permission, removing the need for expensive surveys prior to building works and individual licences to disturb newts if they are present.
The three-year programme will survey areas where newts are most prevalent and map the potential impacts on development. Their habitats will be enhanced or created prior to any development taking place – saving developers time and money.
Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell said: “We are taking decisive action to support developers to build out more quickly so that we can deliver the homes this country needs.
“This new approach to managing great crested newts will not only ensure the continued protection of this rare species and its habitat, but will safeguard developers from the delays, costs and uncertainty which have so often restricted the job of building new homes.”