Ever wondered what all the black low plastic fencing is about around the estate? Wondered what the significance of our nature reserve is? Well read on!
…It’s all about the endangered and protected Great Crested Newt!
What is a Great Crested Newt?
The Great Crested Newt is an amphibian, like a frog or toad. It is the UK’s largest type of newt. During the spring they live in ponds, but the rest of the year they live on land within grassland, woodland, log or rubble piles, and even gardens.
- Large size, up to 18cm
- Dark brown/black on back
- Bright orange/yellow belly with black blotches; and – Rough warty skin with white flecks
When on Land
On land, great crested newts generally engage in searching for food or dispersing and resting. In summer and autumn when conditions can be very dry for many weeks or in winter when conditions are too cold, they are not seen above ground. Foraging above ground occurs mostly at night, and newts feed over a range of habitat types that support invertebrate prey. Newts are generally more active on warm, wet evenings or those following rain and that is when newt encounters are likely.
When in ponds, newts can be active during the day, especially when cold nights are punctuated by warm sunny days. In general, however, there seems to be more activity at night when newts move up from the centre of pond bases into the shallows. In winter, when night temperatures fall below about 5°C, great crested newts enter a period of low activity.
Why should I care about Great Crested Newts?
Great Crested Newts are endangered and are protected from killing, injury and disturbance by law.
The construction of houses and other infrastructure on site is being carried out under strict working conditions to reduce the risk of harm to newts. The development also requires a special licence from Natural England, the Government advisor on nature conservation, to allow the construction work to proceed without breaking the law. If these working conditions are not adhered to, then development work may be stopped at any time by Natural England by retraction of this licence.
The Newts at Abbotswood
Great Crested Newts have been the main ecological focus on the site at Abbotswood. Surveys of the Abbotswood site have led to part of the site being designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), due to the presence of a large population of Great Crested Newts, a European protected species.
Work has taken place to prevent the killing or injury of the newts, providing additional suitable breeding ponds and habitat, and maintaining migration and dispersal corridors across the site by the use of newt tunnels and “newt-friendly” drainage features within the development.
A translocation was completed in November 2010, resulting in over 50 Great Crested Newts being caught from around the site. All individuals were released immediately on site in suitable terrestrial habitat close to the existing breeding pond.
Four new ponds were constructed in December 2010. Annual surveys are completed each year to monitor the population. The final monitoring survey will be completed by EPR in 2016 but it is hoped that Test Valley Borough Council will continue this when the site is adopted.
Current Great Crested Newts Population
The habitat creation works has been very successful, with newts having colonised all of the newly created mitigation ponds. Newts have also been recorded across the residential development, within parcels of soft landscaping. The current monitoring survey figures show that the population has doubled since 2010.
What is the plastic fencing around the site for and why is it important?
In order to prevent newts being harmed during the construction work, all of the newts within the construction zone were captured and relocated to the Area of Nature Conservation to the west of the housing area.
Plastic fencing is being retained around the construction area which acts as a barrier to newt movement and prevents them from re-entering the construction zone. In most places this fencing is solid black plastic with a wooden rail, but is some places it is thinner clear/white polythene.
This fencing is very important because it stops newts being killed or injured by the construction work. It is therefore critical that the fencing remains intact; because newts are so small, even minor damage to the fencing can allow them to re-enter the site.
Newts and the Public
It is crucial that the public do not do the following:
- Allow dogs to enter the fenced off mitigation ponds
- Damage any vegetation in and around the ponds
- Pollute any waterbodies
- Illegally add fish to the ponds
- Pick up, keep, injure or kill newts
- Damage or remove any of the exclusion fencing
Should you come across a newt, you should leave it alone. If the newt is in danger or there is damage to the fencing they should contact the site manager.
Legislation & Policy
The Great Crested Newt (GCN) Triturus cristatusis listed as a Species of Principal Importance in England under S41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, affording protection to this species under Section 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
GCNs are legally protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), which protect GCN from intentional killing, injuring or taking, as well as possession and trade.
GCN are also a European Protected Species under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) (the ‘Habitats Regulations’), which means that places used for shelter and protection are also safeguarded against intentional or reckless damage, destruction and obstruction of access and disturbance to animals occupying those places. Collectively, legislation makes it an offence to:
- Intentionally or deliberately kill, injure or capture Great Crested Newts;
- Intentionally, deliberately or recklessly disturb Great Crested Newts in such a way as to be likely to significantly affect the ability of any significant group of Newts to survive, breed, or rear or nurture their young or the local distribution of or abundance the species;
- Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct any place used by Great Crested Newts for shelter or protection, or intentionally or recklessly disturb a Great Crested Newt whilst it is occupying such a place;
- Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of a Great Crested Newt; and
- Possess, sell or transport a Great Crested Newt, or anything derived from it.
Information provided by EPR (Ecological planning and Research Ltd)