Newts threaten Boris Johnson’s plan to build swimming pool – The Guardian

Creature railed against by ex-prime minister could thwart planning application for Oxfordshire home
Boris Johnson may finally be out of political hot water, but plans to erect an outdoor swimming pool at his Oxfordshire home have been disrupted by a population of great crested newts.
Since leaving frontline politics, the former prime minister has been keen to press ahead with improvements to the home he purchased in May and has been living in with his wife, Carrie, and their three children.
However, it seems that the great crested newt, against which Johnson railed when he was in No 10 and accused of being “a massive drag on the prosperity of this country”, has had its revenge.
The UK’s largest newt, which takes its name from the striking jagged crest that males display in the spring breeding season, is a protected species under British law.
As such, an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison could await anyone found guilty of disturbing the newt’s resting places and breeding sites, or taking their eggs.
Johnson launched an application with South Oxfordshire district council in June for the construction of an outdoor pool, measuring 11 metres by 4 metres (36ft x 13ft).
But Edward Church, a local government ecologist who reviewed the application, did not recommend granting permission for the pool to be built because there are great crested newts living in the grounds.
There is a pond on the property as well as a moat adjacent to the southern boundary.
Given the existence of great crested newts in the village, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the pool “falls within the red zone of highest risk to GCN [great crested newts]”, says Church’s report.
Rules drawn up by Natural England require that such planning applications demonstrate no risk to the great crested newt, or appropriate levels of mitigation and compensation.
“There is a reasonable likelihood that GCN are present and could be impacted by the proposed development,” the report adds, suggesting that a protected species survey be conducted to support Johnson’s application.
Developers are obliged to take care of great crested newts if the amphibians are believed to be on site or nearby.
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Until the past few years, protecting the amphibians when their habitats were being destroyed by developments centred on catching and counting them, and moving them to compensation ponds.
Johnson took aim at the great crested newt in a speech in June 2020, when he unveiled plans nicknamed “project speed” that he argued would “scythe through red tape and get things done”.
The then prime minister said: “Why are we so slow at building homes by comparison with other European countries?
“In 2018, we built 2.25 homes per 1,000 people. Germany managed 3.6, the Netherlands 3.8 and France 6.8. I tell you why – because time is money, and the newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country.”

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