Great Crested Newts (often abbreviated to GCN) are small amphibians, distinguishable from Britain's other newt species by their bright orange spotted belly.
They spend the majority of their time on land (hibernating over winter), only returning to water during the breeding season.
They require a varied terrestrial and aquatic habitat to survive and will often form a 'meta-population' linked to other ponds within the wider landscape through the movement of individuals. Although the UK is regarded as supporting one of the largest populations within Europe, they have nevertheless suffered declines in recent years through the infilling of ponds, desiccation and the loss of habitat. As such Great Crested Newts are afforded full protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) and the Habitats Regulations (2010). This protects both its aquatic (typically ponds) and terrestrial habitat from damage or destruction.
If a water body is identified within 500 m of a proposed development then a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) test will be carried out. This is a standard methodology for 'scoring' a ponds suitability for supporting Great Crested Newt based on 10 features of the pond and surrounding habitat. If the pond is assessed as being of 'moderate' suitability or above then further presence likely absence survey work may be required.
Surveys for Great Crested Newt will take place during early spring when the newts will return to their ponds to breed. A number of methods can be employed dependant on the features of the pond being surveyed but typically include;
Due to level of protection of Great Crested Newt's, surveys can only be undertaken by an appropriately licensed worker.