THE country’s first ‘newt officer’ has been appointed by a local council in an effort to save the species from decline.
Indea Chawk (pictured above) has taken up the role at Central Bedfordshire Council, tasked with ensuring developers preserve the protected amphibians species in three counties.
Her role is stretched across Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and she will work alongside the council’s planning and ecology teams
The job could be rolled out throughout the country over the next few years.
Central Bedfordshire Council were granted a district licence for great crested newts, as part of an initial regional conservation scheme that is delivered by Indea’s employers, NatureSpace.
And, Indea from Barton-le-Clay in Bedfordshire, who has a biological science degree, has said the job was the perfect for her because she has the opportunity to make a change for the species future.
‘When I saw the job advertised, I knew it was perfect for me; it enables me to work closely with nature, making a real difference to conservation,’ she said.
‘I am learning so much more about our native species and wildlife.
‘I will be advising planners and developers about the scheme, and making sure than anyone who isn’t in the scheme is adhering to the planning and legal requirements.
‘At the moment I am spending a lot of time liaising with our planning team, and, of course, the ecologists who are out on site digging new ponds and creating high quality habitats to support newt conservation.’
Great crested newts have been on the decline throughout Europe since the 1940s as a result of intensified agriculture, degradation and the destruction of their habitats.
There are believed to be less than 75,000 great cresteds remaining in the UK despite being the biggest newt species in the country and having existed for around 40million years.
In many cases ponds that were used for watering livestock were replaced with piped water, which resulted in the mismanagement and neglect of ponds.
In England and Wales the great crested newt is protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Councillor Nigel Young, Executive Member for Regeneration at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: ‘We have always looked to support new initiatives and approaches to delivering the growth we need, while ensuring the natural environment is protected.
‘If a proposed development is within 500m (0.31 miles) of a pond, great crested newts become a consideration for planning applications.’
Newts have become a stumbling block for a number of planning applications including superstar singer Ed Sheeran, who’s plans to build a chapel in his Suffolk estate were thwarted temporarily after neighbours raised concerns for the crested newt population.