Guidelines for developers

Flintshire County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council are working towards Local Planning Guidance on great crested newt mitigation requirements. It is hoped that this guidance will be adopted by both Counties in 2016.

This guidance is intended to provide advice and guidance to developers, land owners, members and other council officers when making decisions on planning issues involving, or in close proximity to great crested newt populations and especially where there are statutory sites designated primarily for great crested newts as listed in Table 1.

1 Statutory Designations primarily designated for GCN

CountySACSSSI
FlintshireDeeside & Buckley Newt SitesConnah’s Quay Ponds & Woodlands
Maes y Grug
Buckley Claypits & Commons
Halkyn Mountain Halkyn Common And Holywell Grasslands
Herward Smithy
WrexhamJohnstown Newt Site Stryt Las a'r Hafod

The Guidance will cover the need for mitigation or compensation as follows:

New developments should seek to be as great crested newt friendly as possible. Often there is a requirement to provide mitigation or compensation areas to offset any loss of habitat arising from the development. This normally takes the form of off site habitat creation or enhancement but on site mitigation may also be suitable depending on the location, type and size of the development proposed.

If developments affect a known breeding or resting site then an appropriate new habitat will have to be created prior to the destruction of the original aquatic or terrestrial habitat under an EPS license.

The majority of developments do not directly affect known sites but rather habitats of varying quality adjacent to, or in proximity to known sites. The likelihood of a terrestrial site being used by GCN is based on habitat quality and its proximity to a breeding pond. The principal issue is determining when mitigation or compensation is required and what this should entail in order that the Favourable Conservation Status of the species is maintained.

Where there are ponds in proximity to a development but no records known locally or via Cofnod (North Wales Biological Record Centre), then appropriate surveys of these sites would be expected to determine the potential of the site. GCN likelihood mapping can also be used to assess the need for surveys. These maps are available from Cofnod or Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC).

Where the development is in proximity to a designated Newt Site SAC (Table 1) then there is an additional requirement to assess the direct, indirect and in combination effects to ensure that there is no likely significant effect upon the sites integrity.

Provision of Mitigation/Compensation Land:

a) Alternatives to onsite GCN mitigation

The local authority will assess proposals using a sequential methodology as described in BS 42020. The preferred options, in order of preference are:

  • Onsite provision;
  • A combination of onsite and offsite provision;
  • Offsite provision but this must be close to the site; and
  • A financial contribution towards strategic GCN mitigation/compensation in lieu of direct provision.

b) Mitigation related to development size

Developments of up to 10 dwellings are not normally required to provide mitigation land unless readily available as it would be inappropriate in relation to size constraints and the subsequent management of areas of limited value. Such developments will instead be expected to make a financial contribution to enhance existing populations. For development of more than 10 dwellings, like for like mitigation will be expected.

c) Recreational Pressure

It is expected that there will be additional requirements for developments adjacent to or in close proximity to SACs to provide informal recreational areas to avoid increased pressures on the designated site. Where this cannot be incorporated into the development proposals, a financial contribution for enhancements within the SAC buffer may be acceptable.

d) Planning obligations and commuted payments

Developers will be required to enter into a Section 106 agreement and contributions will normally be paid to the Council on commencement of development. Alternatives will involve payment to a recognised Independent/Wildlife Trust to provide strategic mitigation. Payments can be made as a one off or through an annual service charge on householders.

e) Future Management

In order to satisfy the ‘three tests’ and maintain favourable conservation status in the long term, areas of mitigation/compensation must be secured in perpetuity. It is important to ensure that financial and legal provision is made for the future management of the mitigation/compensation areas. NRW’s preferred option is for the area to be handed over or with a long term lease with sufficient resources to a Wildlife Trust or similar organisation. The resources may be provided up front or annually through a management company.

Planning Inquiry decisions 2015

These are two examples of planning decisions for projects during 2015

Appeal Ref: APP/A6835/A/14/2224724

Site Address: Land at Llys Ben Northop Hall; Appeal refused but the principle of financial compensation for indirect effects on the SAC was accepted.

Appeal Ref: APP/A6835/A/13/2206419

Site address: land to the rear of 66A Mold Road Mynydd Isa, Mold, Flintshire CH7 6TD; Appeal allowed with conditions. The revised ES accepted which concludes that the scheme can be undertaken without unacceptable impacts on the favourable conservation status of the local great crested newt population with the recommendation for financial compensation.

A copy of the Building Wildlife Compensation Form is available by download, a Word copy can be downloaded from HERE and a PDF copy can be downloaded from HERE

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