The term ‘great crested newt mitigation’ usually triggers images of miles of expensive plastic fencing and pitfall traps. However, consideration to green infrastructure can provide higher quality mitigation for development schemes, and could be a better use of resources.
Great crested newts are a European Protected Species, and as such the legislation extends to protect their terrestrial and aquatic habitat. Licences are usually required for any works affecting great crested newt habitat. In order to ensure that great crested newts are protected during construction works, temporary amphibian fencing is usually required, followed by a pitfall trap exercise to clear a site of newts. This can be an expensive option for development schemes, and whilst it ensures that the legislation is adhered to is it the most effective solution to ensure the long-term conservation of this species?
Funding habitat creation and enhancements within areas known to support great crested newts could be a more effective use of resources for their long-term conservation. Schemes should aim to maintain or create green corridors between known breeding ponds, new ponds and high quality terrestrial habitat. Corridors could be included within development proposals or, if this is not possible, adjacent to the site. Such green infrastructure would ensure long-term connectivity between great crested newt populations and reduce the risk of fragmentation and isolation. Green corridors should comprise suitable connective habitat for amphibians, such as dense scrub, hedgerows or even woodland strips.
This focused long-term mitigation would provide enhanced opportunities for local populations of great crested newts, and provide a more holistic approach to mitigation. Whilst we are unlikely to be able to remove the requirement for great crested newt surveys or temporary amphibian fencing and pitfall trap exercises, such approaches will help to focus their use where it is essential.