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District Level Licensing team wins the Operational Delivery GSE Geography in Government Award

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Biodiversity, Protected sites and species, Wildlife

We are delighted to announce that our District Level Licensing team has been awarded the GSE Government in Geography Operational Delivery Award for their efforts to create a new evidence-based approach.

Our National Biodiversity Climate Change Vulnerability Model team had also been on the shortlist - meaning that two out of the three shortlisted nominees for the Award were from Natural England

On Thursday 25 April, members of the District Level Licensing team, and Sarah Taylor and Michael Knight on behalf of the National Biodiversity Climate Change Vulnerability Model project represented Natural England at the awards ceremony in London.

The Award was established by the Geography Profession, a subsidiary of the Government Science and Engineering (GSE) Profession within the Civil Service’s analysis function, and presented for the first time this year. Teams and individuals from across the Civil Service were nominated.

The two teams from Natural England were shortlisted for their outstanding contributions to the successful delivery of public sector projects, and contributions to shaping lasting and valuable outcomes for society.

The District Level Licensing team will now enter the competition for the overall GSE Geography in Government Award presented by the Royal Geographical Society.

Jen Almond, District Level Licensing Project Manager said:

The great crested newt district level licensing project has geospatial analysis and statistics at its heart. Our evidence-based approach to conservation and licensing combines geospatial analysis with ecological knowledge. I feel really lucky to be working alongside such talented modellers and geographers and this award is testament to their hard work on the project.


An image of Jen Almond, Ben Payne, Sarah Taylor and Michael Knight standing against a London skyline.
Jen Almond, Ben Payne, Sarah Taylor and Michael Knight standing against a London skyline.

Natural England Director of Evidence Services, David Askew said:

We’ve been working on some really interesting and innovative approaches to our geographic work and I’m very pleased to see these projects and the teams delivering them being recognised through nomination for the awards.

We would also like to commend Sarah Taylor and Michael Knight for being shortlisted for the Operational Delivery Award, and other teams who put together nominations, such as those working on the Living England project team at Natural England. The Living England project will produce the next generation of satellite-based priority habitat mapping of England, the first of its kind at this scale. All teams continue to contribute to the protection of the environment, species and habitats across England.

About District Level Licensing

District Level Licensing for great crested newts is a new and innovative approach created by Natural England to protect the species and support sustainable development across England.

It is a new approach to authorising developments affecting great crested newts, by focusing conservation efforts where it will create maximum benefit, whilst reducing delays, costs, risk and uncertainty for developers.

Ultimately, District Level Licensing shifts investment from site based assessment and mitigation, to strategic habitat improvements for great crested newts. It’s an important part of implementing the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan to complement and connect our best wildlife sites.

Through District Level Licensing, developers can invest in mitigating the impact of development by restoring and creating offsite compensatory ponds at county level, in areas most suitable for newts, rather than great crested newts being squeezed in around the margins of a development. Importantly, this means great crested newts benefit from an overall increase in breeding grounds to better support their populations over time.

In partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCHLG), local planning authorities, non-governmental organisations and private landowners, we have contributed to the creation and restoration of more than 60 ponds in advance of development. These new and restored ponds have been strategically located to join up and expand existing newt habitats – to help make the newt population more resilient.

To date, District Level Licensing for great crested newts has launched in the South Midlands, Woking, Kent and Cheshire, and is now available across 23 local planning authority areas.

Species distribution modelling

District Level Licensing is based on a new evidence-based approach to conservation and licensing of great crested newts, combining geospatial analysis with ecological knowledge.

The evidence-based approach is supported by species distribution modelling. Species distribution modelling uses existing records and new survey data to accurately predict the distribution of a species across a landscape.

The model accurately predicts the presence of a species, in this case great crested newts, by using our knowledge of their ecology, and is used to define risk zones where development is more, or less likely, to affect great crested newts. The model is also used to indicate strategic opportunity areas where habitats can be created or restored to provide the best outcomes for great crested newt populations.

To read more about the award winning evidence-based licensing approach read our blog post on protecting great crested newts and our most recent press releases for Kent and Cheshire.

To find out more about the innovative National Biodiversity Climate Change Model used to map areas where species and habitats are most likely to be vulnerable to climate change, read our report.

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