Great crested newts and the law

Legal protection

Great crested newts and their habitats are protected under both UK and European Law via the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and great crested newts are also classified as European Protected Species (EPS) under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended).   This protection applies both to the individual animals and to the places they live, so includes ponds and rough grassland used by them at different times of year.

Great crested newt

Great crested newt in the hand

You’re breaking the law if you:

  • capture, kill, disturb or injure great crested newts (on purpose or by not taking enough care)
  • damage or destroy a breeding or resting place (even accidentally)
  • obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places (on purpose or by not taking enough care)
  • possess, sell, control or transport live or dead newts, or parts of them
  • take great crested newt eggs

Some of these offences apply regardless of whether it was either as a result of a deliberate or reckless action (by not taking enough care ).  The offences are criminal and not civil and people suspected of carrying them out can be arrested for questionning by a police constable.

Using bright torches to look for newts is regarded as serious disturbance for great crested newts. All the Norfolk Wildlife Services team are able to carry out surveys for newts, because we have licences issued by Natural England, which we renew annually.

In order to carry out works (e.g. residential development and a change of land use) that might affect newts or newt habitat, you will need a licence from Natural England.  Before this can be granted  can take place, great crested newt mitigation may be required.

For more information about great crested newt mitigation and licences, see this post.

Further reading

Natural England provide a lot of helpful advice for developers and individuals who want to know more about protected species and the law.

If you want to read more around great crested newt protection, significant wildlife legislation includes:

  • Bern convention 1979 : Appendix III;
  • Wildlife & Countryside Act (as Amended) 1981 : Schedule 5;
  • European Commission Habitats Directive 1992 : Annex II and IV;
  • Conservation Regulations 1994 : Schedule 2;
  • Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW 2000).

In Bern 1979, the eponymous convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats took place to ensure the conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats. The UK ratified the Bern convention in 1982. The obligations of the convention have been put into national law by means of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

Similarly the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) are the transposition of the European Commission Habitats Directive 1992.

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