District Level Licensing for Great Crested Newts
Natural England have been working with EnTrade to help create ponds across several English local authority areas.
Great crested newt populations have declined over the last century despite being protected under UK and EU law. This has been due primarily to loss of habitat, with 50% of ponds being lost or neglected over the last century.
District level licensing for great crested newts aims to reverse this trend. This innovative approach to protected species licensing will create a network of ponds. The scheme works by taking payments from developers and investing them in four times the number of ponds impacted by their construction projects.
The one-off developer payment covers the creation, maintenance and monitoring of ponds in the area for 25 years, in locations specially selected to provide the best habitat for great crested newts.
Natural England are interested in working with landowners and farms to create ponds for the scheme at a landscape scale to benefit populations of this iconic species. The ponds are naturally colonised by the amphibians as well as by aquatic vegetation. New research, published in April 2020, shows ponds can have a much wider impact on reversing catchment-wide declines in freshwater biodiversity.
The first step is identifying a target area. Craig Thomas, Habitat Delivery Strategist with Natural England explains: "We market the planned auction to landowners within target ‘Strategic Opportunity Areas’ – where award-winning evidence tells us that there is a good likelihood of new ponds being colonised by existing great crested newt populations."
Farmers and landowners in these areas are then invited to apply via the EnTrade platform. "We use the platform’s online software as an engagement tool" Craig continues. "Auctions help us focus the creation of new ponds in the Strategic Opportunity Areas to help local populations thrive."
On the EnTrade platform, applicants can learn about the requirements for creating suitable ponds, before submitting the location(s) and photos to support their application. The process is simple and straightforward, helping to make the scheme as accessible as possible. The application process is designed so applicants can go through the whole process in less than 10 minutes.
Farmers and landowners are asked to enter a price for which they can provide the habitat, applying for two to six ponds per site. Creating clusters of ponds in this way has been shown to maximise the chance of colonisation by great crested newts and to enhance population resilience.
"Pond auctions help us to engage a greater diversity of landowners across a wider area, complementing existing landowner networks" said Craig.
To ensure that high quality ponds are delivered, Natural England work in partnership with local Wildlife Trusts, Farming & Wildlife Advisory Groups or Ecology departments within Local Authorities, whom conduct site assessments to determine the suitability of the proposed pond locations for the scheme. These partners play a key role: ensuring that good quality habitat is being created, applying for any planning permission required and building an ongoing relationship with the farmer or landowner.
The goal of the auction is to create lots of high quality new habitat for great crested newts. The auction approach means price negotiation is handled quickly and fairly, enabling local partners to focus on sharing their habitat creation expertise and supporting landowners and farmers to create and look after the new habitat.
"The auctions have settled with prices in a narrow price band, where the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. We believe this represent good value to us and to landowners. This is important as we want to help conserve great crested newts and to build a long-term landowner relationship to positively manage and monitor the pond over the next 25 years.
The auction mechanism allows our partners to invest their time in this relationship: time previously invested in scouting for interested landowners can now be spent on siting and creating new ponds for district level licensing" said Craig.
Please register your details below if you are interested in future pond creation for great crested newt auctions. If you would like more information, please contact us.