Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had his plans to build a swimming pool at his Oxfordshire home hampered due to the presence of newts. A council officer at the South Oxfordshire and the Vale District Council reviewed the proposed development and placed a holding objection on the project. It was advised that planning permission would not be granted without an assessment as the pool falls within the red zone of highest risk to great crested newts.

When purchasing or developing properties in England, B P Collins’ property team advises that you must consider not only the structural aspects of the project but also the ecological factors that come into play. Protected species, such as newts, add an additional layer of complexity to property development due to the legal and environmental considerations they bring.

Protected Species and Legal Framework

Newts are among the many protected species in England, covered by both national and European legislation. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations provide the legal framework for the protection of species and habitats. It is illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb newts and other protected species, their breeding sites, or resting places without a license.

Necessary Searches

Before purchasing or developing a property, it may become necessary to conduct ecological surveys to determine whether protected species, such as newts, are present. These surveys are typically carried out by ecological consultants who assess the site’s potential impact on the species and its habitat. A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) is often the starting point, followed by more detailed surveys if necessary. These surveys provide valuable information to inform decisions and meet legal requirements.

Issues and Mitigation

If protected species are found on a property planned for development, certain mitigation measures must be implemented to ensure their conservation. For newts, this might include creating alternative habitats, such as ponds or hibernacula, to compensate for any loss due to development. The mitigation strategy is designed to maintain the population while allowing the development to proceed responsibly.

Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)

When protected species are present, an EcIA is conducted to assess the overall ecological impact of the proposed development. This assessment takes account factors such as habitat loss, potential disturbance, and the effectiveness of mitigation measures. The results of the EcIA guide decision-making, helping balance development goals with environmental protection.

Protected Species Licenses

In cases where development unavoidably impacts protected species, a license might be required from the appropriate authority. The licensing process involves demonstrating a clear understanding of the species, its habitat, and the steps taken to mitigate the impact. Applying for a license involves a detailed submission and adherence to specific guidelines.

Public Perception and Reputation

Consideration of protected species during property development is not just a legal obligation; it also impacts public perception and a developer’s reputation. The public has become increasingly conscious of environmental issues, and a responsible approach to protected species can positively influence a project’s reception.

The presence of protected species, such as newts, adds a layer of complexity to property development in England. Navigating the legal requirements, conducting thorough ecological surveys, implementing mitigation measures, and obtaining necessary licenses are essential steps to ensure responsible and sustainable development. Balancing development aspirations with the preservation of valuable species and habitats is not only legally required, but also contributes to a more environmentally conscious society.

For further advice and information, please contact B P Collins’ property team at or call 01753 889995.

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Alison Taylor
Practice Group Leader

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