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.
Who delivers DLL schemes and where are they available?
District level licencing schemes delivered through Natural England, Local Planning Authorities (LPA) and third parties on behalf of the LPA (e.g. NatureSpace) in the following areas:
• Natural England – Cambridge, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Essex, Greater Manchester, Kent & Medway, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Norfolk & Suffolk, North Lincolnshire, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire, Northumberland, Durham, Tees Valley, Tyne and Wear, Shropshire, Somerset, Swindon & Wiltshire, and Yorkshire
• LPAs – Dorset Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, and Woking Borough Council
• NatureSpace – Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire
Further schemes will be rolled out nationally over the next few 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. reptile translocation).
With regards to costs, the payment level required for DLL varies dependant on the spatial ‘risk zone’ within a development is proposed; with DLL largely only being available within ‘green’ and ‘amber zones’. Applications do not need to be informed by detailed survey data; with conservation payments will be calculated based on the calculated ‘risk’ of GCN being present base on existing local records.
Costs associated with securing a DLL agreement vary between the scheme providers and in relation to the predicated impact of the scheme. Typically an administration fee is required by the provider to provide a draft agreement which can be submitted in support of a planning application, with a conservation payment being paid once planning consent is in place to permit development to go ahead. In some cases, for higher impact schemes as two stage conservation payment will be required.
For ‘low impact’ schemes NatureSpace can now also provide this within ‘red’ zones where predicated impacts are low (i.e. minor developments on sites less than 0.5ha, where no ponds or other priority habitats are being impacted on-site). A one-off £2k fee is applicable to secure an agreement under the relevant LPAs organisational DLL.
EPS licence application fees also now apply to the traditional licencing route. Determination of new EPSL 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 are 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. Traditional licence applications will also need to be informed by detailed survey information; and the costs and seasonal timing constraints of implementation of on-site mitigation should also be considered.
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.