Update: Great Crested Newt licencing and mitigation review

Natural England is reviewing its approach to great crested newt licencing and mitigation approach, which will be introduced across the country. In each county, the approach will begin with a study to identify where newts are, and then create a map of the potential impacts of development to form appropriate conservation strategies in partnership with local government bodies. In the meantime, the existing methods of great crested newt mitigation for development projects withstand and there are no plans to abolish the laws protecting this species.

Great Crested Newt on hand

Read more about it in our previous newsletter article

If you want advice about how these changes might affect your company please contact us.


Suction solution for no-cut root route

In June 2017, Anglian Water began work on a pipeline renewal scheme at Belstead Water Tower, Ipswich. Trenching 1.2m deep by 0.5m wide was required to allow pipe-laying, but the only route out of the compound was in the Root Protection Area (RPA) of large oak, an important group of TPO trees.

Norfolk Wildlife Services worked with Anglian Water and Conroys to create an Arboricultural Method Statement [AMS].   An innovative solution  practical  technology –  a suction excavator [Conroy Vac Ex] – to prevent need to cut roots with ground protection techniques to protect tree roots of the protected trees from vehicle damage.

The suction excavator removes the soil around the roots, eliminating the need to cut through them in order to create the trench.  Major roots were left intact which means the trees ability to take up water and nutrients was not compromised.  Exposed roots were wrapped with wet hessian to prevent desiccation.  The pipe was then laid underneath the routes and the trench was then backfilled with the original soil, minimising disruption to the trees’ water supply in a period of dry weather.

Ground protection techniques help prevent compaction of the soil around the tree roots


Work begins on suction excavation of trench around tree roots using Conroy Vac Ex

Work with Conroy Vac Ex suction excavator continues on open trench and tree roots


Wet hessian bags were wrapped around the roots to avoid desiccation.


Pipe laying commences




Can eDNA detect great crested newts later in year?

Natural England [1] only accept “negative” eDNA results for newt licencing where efficacy has been proven ( e.g. between the above dates and by trained personnel ) . “Positive” results clearly have no such limitation.

The pilot work [2] on using eDNA for detecting newts relied on comparing conventional field survey techniques to eDNA and comparative results were therefore only available during their sampling period i.e. mid-April and late June. Detection rates for sites where newts were known to be present were 99.3% using professionals and 91.2% using volunteers.

The report [ 2 ] states that “Overall, collecting eDNA appears to be a highly effective method for determining whether Great Crested Newts are present or absent during the breeding season. We do not know how effective the method is outside this period.”

Natural England indicates the peak season for surveying for larvae is August, so in theory these should be detected by later eDNA tests.

eDNA declined rapidly once great crested newts were removed from experimental ponds [3] – to undetectable levels over 1-2 weeks. Ponds could therefore have been utilised by adults earlier in the season e.g. for foraging, but the absence of larvae would point towards absence of successful breeding.


[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/great-crested-newts-surveys-and-mitigation-for-development-projects

[2] Biggs, J., Ewald, N., Valentini, A., Gaboriaud, C., Griffiths, R.A., Foster, J., Wilkinson, J., Arnett, A., Williams, P. and Dunn, F., 2014. Analytical and methodological development for improved surveillance of the Great Crested Newt. Defra Project WC1067. Freshwater Habitats Trust: Oxford. http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=18650&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=wc1067&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description


[3] Thomsen, P., Kielgast, J.O.S., Iversen, L.L., Wiuf, C., Rasmussen, M., Gilbert, M.T.P., Orlando, L. and Willerslev, E., 2012. Monitoring endangered freshwater biodiversity using environmental DNA. Molecular ecology, 21(11), pp.2565-2573.


Happy dog, happy wildlife

Dog walking can be one of the best ways to get people out and about experiencing nature but our faithful hounds and our beloved wildlife often have conflicting needs, making it difficult to create green spaces suitable for both. Follow these top five tips to plan a greenspace that will result in happy dogs, and happy wildlife:

Happy dog, happy wildlife

Emily and Stig (the world’s first water vole detection dog) enjoying a dog walk and experiencing nature.

  1.  Provide areas of enclosed greenspace. Offering safe areas for dogs to run off-lead makes dog-owners more likely to respect on-lead areas.
  2. Create a circular dog walking route, with clear, defined paths. Obvious paths will encourage dog walkers to stick to a set route meaning they are less likely to disturb more valuable wildlife areas.
  3. Ensure these areas and routes are within 500m of new homes. Placing suitable areas within walking distance will deter owners from driving to areas further-a-field that they perceive to be suitable greenspace.
  4. A range of all-weather surfaces with a naturalistic feel will guarantee dog walkers consistent access without having to invest in walking boots.
  5. Construct an area of clean water with safe access for dogs. Providing an assigned ‘splash-about’ area will keep dogs out of water which contains sensitive wildlife.

If you’d like more advice on planning for wildlife and dogs, Hampshire County Council have produced a wonderful document: Planning for dog ownership in new developments: reducing conflict – adding value.

Stig, pictured is the world’s first water vole detection dog. He is trained in the art of water vole poo detection. To find out more about Stig, his partner in training Lola, and their handler Ali, visit Ecology Dogs. Alternatively, keep regularly up-to-date with their water vole finds by following @EcologyDogs on Twitter.



What chemicals can I use in bat roosts ?

Natural England guidance on chemicals not affecting bats is hard to find on gov.uk. We have uploaded a copy of “Natural England Technical Information Note TIN092 Bat roosts and timber treatment products” [TIN092_Bat_Friendly_Timber_Treatment], which is the First edition dated 15 March 2011. This gives a list of those commonly available products currently approved as remedial timber treatment chemicals and products in bat roosts. This was an update to the information in the 3rd edition of the Bat Workers Manual.

We know the list is not comprehensive. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you may be best to get us to ring Natural England on your behalf.  They are very friendly and generally able to make a quick response on the subject.

Schedule 9 invasive plants and development

Schedule 9 plants are invasive and generally need controlling on a development site. After talking to a client about yellow archangel, we thought a list of schedule 9 would be helpful. It is an offence to “plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild invasive non-native plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”

A lot of the most invasive are aquatic or live in marshy environments e.g. Crassula helmsii, but brownfield sites also harbour species such as knotweed.  We can advise on control methods to incorporate into construction management for you.

Plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales

Common Name Latin Name  
Elodea (waterweeds) eg Canadian waterweed Elodea Canadensis All species of the Elodea genus Aquatic – widespread in Norfolk
Curly waterweed Lagarosiphon major Aquatic
Duck potato Sagittaria latifolia Aquatic
Entire-leaved cotoneaster Cotoneaster integrifolius Garden escape
Knotweed Fallopia japonica x Fallopia sachalinensis (a hybrid knotweed) Brownfield sites
False Virginia creeper Parthenocissus inserta Garden escape
Fanwort (Carolina water-shield) Cabomba caroliniana Aquatic
Few-flowered leek Allium paradoxum
Floating pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides Aquatic – highly invasive
Floating water primrose Ludwigia peploides Aquatic
Giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum Fairly commonly encountered
Giant knotweed Fallopia sachalinensis Brownfield sites
Giant rhubarb Gunnera tinctoria Too cold in Norfolk
Giant salvinia Salvinia molesta Aquatic
Green seafingers Codium fragile
Himalayan cotoneaster Cotoneaster simonsii
Hollyberry cotoneaster Cotoneaster bullatus
Hottentot-fig Carpobrotus edulis Too cold in Norfolk
Indian balsam Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera Water courses and rivers
Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica Brownfield sites
Japanese rose Rosa rugosa
Montbretia Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora
New Zealand pigmyweed (Australian swamp-stonecrop) Crassula helmsii Aquatic – highly invasive in Norfolk
Parrot’s-feather Myriophyllum aquaticum Aquatic
Perfoliate Alexanders Smyrnium perfoliatum
Purple dewplant Disphyma crassifolium
Red algae Grateloupia luxurians
Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum Acid soils only
Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum x Rhododendron maximum Acid soils only
Small-leaved cotoneaster Cotoneaster microphyllus Garden escape
Shallon Gaultheria shallon
Three-cornered garlic Allium triquetrum Too cold in Norfolk ?
Variegated yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. argentatum Garden escape
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia Garden escape
Water fern Azolla filiculoides Aquatic
Water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes Aquatic
Water lettuce Pistia stratiotes Aquatic
Water primrose Ludwigia grandiflora / Ludwigia uruguayensis Aquatic
Yellow azalea Rhododendron luteum Acid soils only

What is Section 28 permission ?

Section 28 is the way in which Natural England offer permission for acts that might potentially damage SSSIs.  It refers to the 1981 Countryside & Wildlife Act, which was amended by the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.  It applies to individual landowners as well as public bodies such as Secretary of State, government departments and agencies, local authorities and statutory undertakers ( water, gas, drainage boards ).

The Act requires people who own or occupy of SSSIs to ask Natural England for permission to carry out operations that may “damage the special interest of the site”.  These operations  (also might be called ‘Operations Likely to Damage’ (OLD) or ‘Potentially Damaging Operations’ ( PDOs) are listed for each SSSI. They might include drainage, excavation or change of use.  [Normally where the site is already under a management agreement or management plan agreed with Natural England then the consent will be implicit in these plans. ].

There are three separate strands, based on who is applying and why :

1. Consents (= Section 28 E)

– applies to SSSI owners/occupiers of an SSSI asking permission to undertake works, including a public body where it isnt part of their functions e.g. where they own a SSSI.

2. Assents (= Section 28 H)

where public bodies are carrying out their functions such as  and they need to undertake works on a site that includes an operation identified in the SSSI notification as likely to damage.

3. Advice (= Section 28 I)

– where a public body, such as a local authority, has powers to grant permission for others to undertake work on an SSSI.  Natural England can advise against giving permission for such operations that may “damage the special interest of the site” or advise that conditions should be attached.

Natural England may grant consent, with or without conditions, or refuse consent on operations, where it is not “compatible with furthering the conservation and enhancement of the special interest of the site”.

More information is available from Natural England : https://www.gov.uk/guidance/protected-areas-sites-of-special-scientific-interest 

Ring us if you need advice or supporting surveys.