Species Focus: Great Crested Newts

Posted by Sara King BSc (Hons) MCIEEM on 13/03/2014


Great crested newts have a very limited survey season. Presence/absence and population surveys can only be undertaken when newts are in the ponds for breeding, which is usually between mid-March and mid-June. At least half the surveys must be undertaken between mid-April and mid-May. Surveys comprise between 4 and 6 survey visits, and torch searches, bottle trapping and egg searches are usually required. Habitat assessments can be undertaken all year round.


If a scheme is likely to affect either confirmed breeding ponds or suitable terrestrial habitat (e.g scrub, woodlands, hedgerows, tussocky grassland) within 500m of breeding ponds then a European Protected Species Licence is likely to be required. Licences can only be approved once planning permission has been granted (if applicable) and require at least 30 working days for processing.


Mitigation measures will be specific to a site or development scheme, and depends on the habitats and the number of great crested newts likely to be affected. Mitigation measures can range from a watching brief of vegetation clearance to clearance of a site using amphibian fencing and pitfall traps. Timings of licence implementation is sometimes restricted to certain seasons, such as avoiding hibernation season (November to March).


Great crested newt are afforded protection under European law and therefore if they are present on your site you may face regulatory hurdles that can be difficult to overcome.  In addition the repercussions in the event of non-compliance are serious, such as fines up to £5,000 or 6 months imprisonment.


It may seem like great crested newts are everywhere, but they actually have a limited distribution and are in population decline. The south-west is a strong hold for great crested newts, but they have limited distributions in Devon, Cornwall and Scotland.

For further information, visit our great crested newt species page