Protestors hoping the Great Crested Newt could come to their aid to stop or delay developments may have been outflanked by changes in the licensing scheme.
Traditionally developers could be held up for years and at great cost if this protected species was found on their site.
But Central Bedfordshire Council, which is planning huge developments across the borough in the next 20 years, now has a Newt Officer, aimed to streamline the process for developers.
Indea Chawk is funded by NatureSpace which offers ’mitigation and compensation solutions for developers’.
Surveys indicate newts are present in about a third of Central Beds ponds, higher than the national average. If a proposed planning development is within 500m of a pond, great crested newts become a consideration for planning applications.
The council has been granted a district licence for the newts, as part of an initial regional conservation scheme delivered by not-for-profit company NatureSpace. Indea will be working with the council’s planning officers and others from six nearby authorities and a newt conservation body, to offer developers a quicker and easier way to meet their legal obligations.
The scheme is voluntary for developers. Indea will provide impartial advice to all developers and their environmental consultants, advising them of both the new District Licence opportunity and the traditional methods of meeting great crested newt obligations. The scheme is self-funding through the contributions made by developers.
Councillor Nigel Young, Executive Member for Regeneration at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “We have always looked to support new initiatives and approaches to delivering the growth we need, while ensuring the natural environment is protected.”
The scheme, licensed by Natural England and endorsed by the government, will also save developers time and money, and enable sustainable development to progress with certainty, a council spokesman said.