Great crested newt (GCN) surveys

Great crested newt surveys

Following significant declines in population over the last century, great crested newts have been afforded strict protection through legislation and policy. This includes protection from harm and disturbance as well as protection of their habitats from damage and destruction. Great crested newt surveys are likely to be required where there is suitable terrestrial or aquatic habitat within your site that will be affected by development.

We are experts at conducting great crested newt surveys and have helped numerous clients gain planning consent and develop their sites while complying with the relevant legislation. Contact us for open and honest advice regarding great crested newts and your development.

The first stage in conducting a great crested newt survey is normally to undertake a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) assessment of water bodies within or near to the site (Oldham et al. 2000). This is a standard technique for evaluating and comparing the suitability of a large number of water bodies and enables any further survey requirements to be planned ahead of the great crested newt survey season.

Following the results of the HSI assessment, further surveys may be required to determine the presence or likely absence of great crested newts. Presence/absence surveys should follow Natural England’s great crested newt mitigation guidelines (English Nature, 2001) and would normally comprise four visits to each water body to undertake bottle trapping, egg searching and a torch survey.

Where no great crested newts are recorded, then it can normally be concluded that there is a likely absence of great crested newts and no further action is required. Where great crested newts are recorded and they are likely to be affected by the development, an additional two survey visits are normally required by the regulators. Appropriate mitigation measures may also need to be put in place to enable the development to progress. See our great crested newt mitigation page for more information.

Great crested newt surveys

An adult male great crested newt and a female smooth newt caught in a bottle trap.

Timing Considerations: HSI assessments can be undertaken at any time of year and can normally be combined with a preliminary ecological appraisal to save time and money. Great crested newt surveys should be undertaken between mid-March to mid-June, with at least half of the visits undertaken between mid-April and mid-May.

Environmental DNA survey

Following a landmark announcement from Natural England in 2014, the presence or likely absence of great crested newts can now be determined simply by taking water samples. These can then be analysed for the presence of great crested newt environmental DNA (eDNA) using the quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) method. If the result is negative, then no further survey should be required and a report can be produced to this effect. For large projects, this method can result in significant time and cost savings. Currently, the regulators may still require conventional survey techniques to be undertaken where great crested newts are confirmed to be present.
Great crested newt eDNA surveys
Timing Considerations: At present, only water samples collected between 15 April and 30 June can be used to confirm the presence or likely absence of great crested newts.
About us
Babec Ecological Consultants are based in Sussex and Hertfordshire, and provide great crested newt surveys across West Sussex, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Essex, London and throughout England and Wales. We are happy to give free initial advice and provide an excellent service at competitive rates. Click here to get in touch.