What is District Level Licencing?
District Level Licencing (DLL) is an alternative approach to traditional Great Crested Newt (GCN) licencing and mitigation. The approach seeks to offset the impacts of development on GCN at a district or county level, rather than at the individual site level. This is a strategic approach, funded by developer contributions, which allows habitat compensation to be delivered elsewhere in the district to ensure that local conservation status can be maintained, with no further requirement for on-site mitigation (e.g. fencing, trapping and monitoring).
What are the benefits?
DLL provides several considerable benefits. DLL is generally a quicker alternative to traditional licencing, with it possible to apply for a licence year-round, in the absence or presence of survey data. DLL provides 100% legal surety as the scheme is approved by Natural England. Once the fee is paid a certificate is provided which may be submitted alongside a planning application as a guaranteed successful GCN mitigation approach, with no hidden costs arising later on in the scheme. No on-site mitigation is terms of habitat provision is necessary; and trapping and translocation is not required.
DLL avoids seasonal constraints both in terms of pre-planning surveys and post-planning implementation works. The scheme also provides demonstratable net gain in terms of aquatic habitat provision.
What are the negatives?
DLL is not likely to be the best option for all developments and in some instances is more costly than a traditional licencing approach. Generally, DLL is most cost-effective on low impact schemes, with payments rising considerably when ponds are located on-site or abundant in the immediate vicinity.
Where is DLL available?
Natural England introduced DLL schemes in Kent and Cheshire in 2019, with a similar scheme (approved by NE) being delivered in the Midlands by NatureSpace Partnership since 2018, which is now available across 16 Local Planning Authority areas*. As of April 2020, Natural England led DLL schemes are now available in Essex, Swindon, Wiltshire, Somerset, Shropshire, Greater Manchester, and parts of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire. Further schemes will be rolled out nationally over the next couple of years, with a focus on areas where GCN are fairly common and widespread in southern England.
So how do I know which licencing option is best for my site?
There are many factors to be considered, such as the abundance and distribution of GCN in the area, the size and suitability of ponds within proximity to proposed development, the presence of local records and whether on-site mitigation will be required anyway for other species, e.g. reptiles.
Also worth noting is that Natural England has recently announced the introduction of charges for traditional GCN mitigation licences. New applications will be charged at the rate of £101 per hour, plus a £183 towards compliance checks. Due to the lengthy time taken to process traditional GCN mitigation licences, typical costs are expected to range between £2,500 and £10,000, dependent upon the complexity of the scheme. Modifications to licences will be charged at the same hourly rate and are typically likely to range between £75 and £1000. It is possible to request a price indication before the licence is processed, and exemptions are available for small scale household improvement projects and for schemes in the interests of preserving health and safety.
These factors will all impact the cost-benefit analysis of DLL versus traditional licencing options, and will need careful consideration before deciding which route to take.
CSA Ecologist’s will guide you through this process and help you plan with confidence.
*DLL is now available for Aylesbury Vale District Council, Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Cheltenham Borough Council, Cherwell District Council, Cotswold District Council, Forest of Dean District Council, Gloucester City Council, Milton Keynes Council, Oxford City Council, South Northamptonshire Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Stroud District Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council, West Oxfordshire District Council and Vale of White Horse District Council.