Good news for newts – project to increase habitat for rare creature

New ponds will help the rare Great Crested Newt Picture: SIMON BOOTH

New ponds will help the rare Great Crested Newt Picture: SIMON BOOTH - Credit: Archant

Seven ponds are to be created or restored across Suffolk to provide new habitat and extra protection for one of the country’s rarest wildlife species.

A female Great Crested Newt Picture: BILL DARNELL

A female Great Crested Newt Picture: BILL DARNELL

Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) has been commissioned to take part in the national project to help the Great Crested Newt - and the first two of the new ponds have been given the go-ahead.

East Suffolk Council has approved plans for the ponds on farmland at Walpole belonging to Broad Oak Farm, Bramfield.

Records show there are Great Crested Newt populations in the area and the two-metre deep ponds and bunds for hibernation opportunities will provide new habitat to encourage the creatures to make new homes and breed.

SWT is working with Natural England to determine the best sites for the ponds to create maximum benefit for the amphibians.

"Instead of developers carrying out surveys and mitigation measures within their development sites, the scheme provides enhanced habitat at a landscape scale for great crested newts at the best locations," said SWT.

Suffolk's seven ponds will be mostly newly dug rather than restored and the aim is to have them ready by the end of the month.

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The Great Crested Newt is the UK's biggest newt, almost black in colour, with spotted flanks and a striking, orange belly, and can grow up to 17cm long.

The trust says the newt has warty skin and males have a long, wavy crest along the body and tail during the breeding season.

Natural England said: "Populations of great crested newts can struggle when they become isolated.

"Creating connected habitats across the country is the single most positive thing we can do for their survival, by allowing them to spread naturally.

"At the same time, the strategic approach to licensing helps developers to avoid costs and delays to their projects. This roll-out is key to helping us ensure that regulation better serves both the natural environment and the economy."

Great Crested Newts are rare across Europe, although can be locally abundant in the UK. They are protected by law, meaning that disturbance or damage to the newts or their habitat requires a European protected species licence.

Currently, licences are issued on a site-by-site basis. National implementation of the new approach will benefit newts at population level across the landscape.

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