What is new-t on our 185-home site in Brackley?

Newt
Can you tell the difference between this:
And this?

It is important as one is a Common Lizard, while the other is a Great Crested Newt. The latter is specifically protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Steps have to be taken to protect Great Crested Newts where evidence exists of their presence.

These pictures were both taken from our project at Turweston Road, Brackley where Helix Consulting is carrying out pre-construction duties for our client Catalyst Housing Group to help build the first 185 affordable homes and flats in a 350-home scheme.

Protected species

The black perimeter newt fencing, with white newt buckets

The Great Crested Newt is the second picture – did you get it?

We have been working with Natural England to ensure we follow the correct steps to humanely trap and translocate any Great Crested Newts currently living within the site boundary. Although Great Crested Newts are the largest UK newt species, adults are still only around 17cm long. This is a 14.5 ha site with a perimeter of 2.1 km – no small undertaking!

Here is what we have done:

  • Created a pond on nearby land – working in partnership with Highways England – to relocate any Great Crested Newts found on our site
  • Obtained a Great Crested Newt Licence from Natural England ensuring the correct protocol is maintained throughout
  • Installed black perimeter newt fencing and also white ‘drift’ fencing (see pics below) to secure the site
  • Dug-in 610 shallow buckets and placed approximately 650 carpet tiles around the newt fencing to capture any Great Crested Newts. The buckets and carpet tiles are checked daily by ecologists and any creatures caught are translocated to a safe haven

The newt trapping, as it is called, began on 27 May and lasts for 60 days. So far we have caught five Great Crested Newts, as well as several toads and Common Lizards.

The captured Great Crested Newts have been translocated by the ecologist in the correct manner to the pond I mentioned. A discovery of a Great Crested Newt also means the newt trapping must continue for at least a further 30 days from that point. This is regardless of whether you find a Great Crested Newt on day 1 or day 59.

Brackley progress

Installing white ‘drift’ fencing

As well as ensuring we are able to safely conduct the newt trapping by observing social distancing guidelines, we have also worked hard to keep the project on time and on budget for Catalyst.

This has been possible as we have been working on pre-construction and procuring suppliers. While this was in some sense fortuitous, it remained challenging. As well as managing our own rapid shift to home working at Helix, we were also liaising with suppliers over their situations and ability to accurately tender for work.

It is really pleasing to say that we have been able to manage this process and secure the suppliers we need to allow the pre-construction activities to progress on site.

 

Social distancing

As mentioned, we are very much observing social distancing guidelines to ensure the safety of our colleagues and supply chain partners, but as Brackley is a large site, this is less challenging than for tight, urban locations.

We are in no way complacent, however, and have set out site COVID-19 safety guidelines that we will keep under continual review as site work picks up. We will not proceed with any activity until we can be certain it can be undertaken safely. Risk Assessments and Methods (RAM) & COVID-19 Statements have been requested and are in place from all our supply chain carrying out work or surveys on site. We will not be taking any chances with our employees and demand the same approach from all our supply chain.

In the meantime, I’m pulling on my gloves once again, grabbing my drill and heading out to walk the perimeter and check the integrity of the newt fencing. Keeping my eyes peeled for these Great Crested Newts!

Barry Neale is Pre-Construction Design Manager at Helix Consulting