July 31 2014 Latest news:
Monday, May 12, 2014
European Union rules have forced a Suffolk duke to spend £40,000 to save 10 protected newts on his country estate.
Plans to create a 60 million gallon reservoir at the Duke of Grafton’s Euston Estate, near Thetford, were delayed when officials called for staff to save great crested newts in the location before building work could begin.
Andrew Blenkiron, estate manager, said extensive work, including constructing 7,000ft of 18inch-high fencing to enclose the 20 acres around the proposed reservoir, had cost about £4,000 per newt.
Some 400 buckets – which had to be checked twice a day – were then placed on the ground around the reservoir site to trap any newts.
The European Union has declared the newts as endangered and placed them on a protected species list.
“I am obviously very disappointed that we had to follow the route of a full planning process,” Mr Blenkiron said.
“Farmers take everything in their stride and get on and do what they need to do but this has cost an awful lot of money and time.
“It has also delayed our business expansion plans by two years.”
He said that initial reservoir plans were rejected as planning officers called for the estate to apply for full planning permission.
This meant additional surveys were required, including ecological studies, before the reservoir could be dug on the 10,500-acre estate.
The Government body, Natural England, enforces the EU guidance. A spokeswoman for the group said: “The legislation around European protected species is really rigorous.”
The estate’s spending included having to provide two new ponds for the newts to replace one being lost because of the reservoir plan.
An additional £60,000 was required for further survey and excavation work to ensure the reservoir does not destroy any buried artefacts. Mr Blenkiron said the estate was given a Government grant, funded by EU money, of £110,000 for the reservoir project which is to cost between £320,000 and £350,000.
But instead of this being spent on the building of the reservoir, which is to be used to increase the estate’s crop production, it will be used to pay additional fees.
The estate, which is currently the home of Henry FitzRoy, known as Harry, who is the 12th duke. It has been the Grafton family’s base for more than 300 years.