Bid to create new ponds in Nidderdale for Britain’s biggest amphibian
Last updated Dec 8, 2023
Photo of a great crested newt.
A great crested newt. Photo: iStock/mauribo.

New habitats for one of the UK’s most iconic protected species could be created in Nidderdale if a planning application is approved. 

Wildscapes, a community interest company (CIC) owned by the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, has applied to create two ponds at Delves Ridge, near Thornthwaite, to help boost the population of great crested newts. 

The species, also known as the northern crested newt or warty newt, is Britain’s largest amphibian, reaching lengths of up to 17cm (nearly 7 inches). Globally, it is regarded as being “of least concern”, but in the UK, where habitat loss has seen a sharp downturn in numbers over the past century, it is considered to be at risk and is protected under law.

To help halt its decline, Natural England has established a programme of district level licensing, and property developers whose projects have been identified by Natural England as having caused the loss of great crested newt habitat have applied to join the scheme to offset the damage. 

As a result, a number of ponds suitable for increasing population of great crested newts must now be created or restored in North Yorkshire. 

Wildscapes CIC is Natural England’s habitat delivery body and creates around 100 new ponds a year for great crested newts. It has identified the Thornthwaite site, which is within the Nidderdale National Landscape (formerly known as the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or AONB), as a perfect location.

But the ponds will not be entirely new to the locality, which is on land off Menwith Hill Road. According to the planning document submitted to North Yorkshire Council: 

“Evidence of current and previously existing pond structures can be seen in the surrounding area, including those which have been lost to agricultural development.  

“Creation of ponds on this site will return these features to the landscape and enhance the local wildlife and biodiversity.  

“As a local feature this is well within keeping with the existing landscape as well as offering a significant opportunity for enhancement.” 

The two proposed ponds could be just the start of a great crested newt renaissance if local conservation plans are successful, with more being created not far away, in the Washburn Valley. 

According to the planning application, Wildscapes has been in discussions with the Nidderdale National Landscape project ecologist, Kate Wright, who said she believed the proposed site was a “good location”. 

She added: 

“We did have a potential new pond for a site south along Meagill Lane, but it didn’t go ahead due to planning issues. There’s a very large toad population in the Washburn valley just over 1km WSW.

“I don’t believe I’ve had any contact with this landowner as part of the previous project. But it’s within our desired development area for wetland creation in 2023/4.

“We’ve received some interest from other landowners in the area, including potentially a series of ca. 3 ponds just west over the Washburn Valley.”

The consultation period for the application started on Monday (December 4) and is due to end on Thursday, December 28. The planning application reference code is ZC23/03802/FUL.

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