Jo Carter, Senior Adviser at Natural England tells us about new charges for great crested newt mitigation licences to help conserve the species and save time for developers.
It means greater investment in Natural England’s licensing service and this will lead to a quicker turnaround in the processing of applications and speed up the overall process for applicants. It will also enable more compliance checks to be carried out to ensure mitigation is being implemented properly, which will benefit protected species.
In addition, it means Natural England moves from a system that is solely funded by the taxpayer, to being one where users pay - in line with Treasury guidance and in common with other public bodies.
It comes on the same day that we announced we are rolling out an innovative and strategic approach to great crested newt licensing across 37 local authorities in Essex, Wiltshire, Shropshire, Greater Manchester, South Midlands, and parts of Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Applying for a licence
The forms for great crested newt (GCN) mitigation licences can be found on .gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/great-crested-newts-apply-for-a-mitigation-licence
When applying for a licence, applicants will now need to fill in a charge screening form. This will allow Natural England to determine whether a charge exemption applies or whether a fee needs to be paid. The fee is variable, depending on the number of hours it takes to assess the licence; applicants can ask for an indication of the price when applying.
If work is being undertaken in an area where there is a district level licensing scheme, then this scheme offers an alternative quicker option to an individual mitigation licence.
About wildlife licences and charging
Although great crested newts are rare across Europe, they can be locally abundant in England. Great crested newts are a protected species. It is an offence to capture, kill, injure or disturb them or their habitat without a wildlife licence from Natural England. Licences are only issued for certain purposes, set in law, where there is a valid justification and no other satisfactory solution can be found.
The introduction of wildlife licence charges is part of a wider reform programme to provide improvements for wildlife and better customer service to applicants. Other reforms include improvements to Natural England’s licence processing service, earned recognition, new class licences and great crested newt district level licensing.
The charge schedules and exemptions for wildlife licences are described in the legislation. Exemptions include licences issued for:
- the prevention of serious damage to property;
- the prevention of spread of disease;
- public health and safety;
- householder development projects;
- conservation project delivery;
- conservation science and
- licences primarily used for voluntary purposes.
Natural England also offers a pre-submission screening service so applicants can get advice on planning and development proposals that require a protected species mitigation licence and the charges that apply. Find out more about our pre-submission screening service online.