Published: September 15, 2011
Discovery of rare newts hikes up cost of 550-home Highbridge project

The discovery of a protected species of newt on land where 550 new homes are planned in Highbridge has led to the developer having to spend thousands of pounds on additional environmental measures.

Hallam Land Management, which has requested outline planning permission for the new homes at the Brue Farm site on the south side of Highbridge, has confirmed that great crested newts have been discovered within the proposed development site.

Extensive environmental surveys have been carried out over two years to assess how many of the protected creatures are living there.

"During these surveys great crested newts were found in seven water bodies and four of these occur within the proposed development area. The peak count of great crested newts identified across the water bodies within and adjacent to the proposed development area was 24 on 27th April 2011," according to a report on behalf of Hallam Land Management that has been made public this week.

"This number of animals represents a medium population of great crested newts and due to the lack of any further records of the creatures in the area, it has been determined that this population is of county level significance."

The report concludes: "To facilitate the development of the site, a mitigation strategy will be developed which will protect and safeguard the population of newts."

"This will involve the creation, enhancement and retention of habitats used by great crested newts and, where habitats will be lost, mitigation will ensure that no individuals are harmed, injured or killed."

To compensate for the loss of aquatic habitats, eight ponds will be created on land to the north and south of the proposed development area which will be designed to provide suitable breeding conditions for the newts.

As the creatures are a protected species, a special licence from Natural England will also be required to clear them in advance of any building work.

A range of additional habitats will also be provided throughout the reserve area on the site, comprising grassland, hedgerow, scrub and woodland.

The plans to build up to 550 new homes were formally logged by Sedgemoor District Council this week.

Hallam Land Management's planning application covers the building of new homes, a primary school, a day nursery, a park and a sports area.

Sedgemoor District Council last year identified the land as its preferred location for housing growth in the Burnham area. The proposals received a lukewarm backing from the Town Council, as we reported here, and we first reported earlier this year that hundreds of new homes are earmarked for the 64 acre site.

The public will be able to submit feedback to Sedgemoor District Council until 14th October 2011 during the initial consultation.

Pictured: Top, Great Crested Newts (pic Piet Spaans) have been found at the Highbridge site of the proposed 550 new homes


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