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Newts Neuter New Block:

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Gemma Fairchild
Krag Committee
Joined: 14 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 193


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Posted: 08 Oct 2004
Times Educational Supplement, October 8 2004

 

NEWTS NEUTER NEW BLOCK

 

Roger Bushby

 

A 325.000 building programme at a village primary school has been put on hold after a colony of rare newts was discovered in a nearby pond.

 

Great Dalby school, in Leicestershire was planning to replace mobile classrooms with a new, cutting edge design teaching block for infants.

 

But the school is now at the centre of a debate about whether the work should go ahead at all, after the newts were found on the proposed site of the new build­ing.

 

The Department for the Envi­ronment. Food and Rural Affairs has issued a protection order to save the newts, and Eng­lish Nature confirmed that a spe­cial licence was needed to destroy the habitat of any protect­ed animal.

 

The county council was unable to offer the school much help. It sent out the following, less than illuminating, statement:

 

"An eco­logical and protected species sur­vey was undertaken, and great crested newts were found inhab­iting a pond at the edge of the site. Nobody knows exactly how many newts there are.

 

The construction of the class­rooms would severely disturb the habitat, and the measures that needed to be taken could not be quantified.

 

The practicalities of construc­tion in relation to this habitat ­and the potential cost of mitiga­tion and compensation mea­sures, when added to the general construction costs - would not represent value for money."

 

It concluded that the solution may be "to retain the existing mobile, provided it is reclad in a more acceptable manner".

 

Meanwhile. headtcacher Chris Hannon said the school was in a state of limbo, and awaiting a decision. "It is frus­trating, the money is there to have a purpose-built modern building for the infants." he said.

 

The great crested is Europe's largest newt, and anyone think­ing about removing it from its habitat might do well to recon­sider.

 

The amphibian has a distinc­tively warty skin and gives off a foul taste to any would-be preda­tor.

(I wish I was a newspaper reporter and could make up these headlines)


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Sue Young
Krag Committee
Joined: 07 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 9


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Posted: 21 Oct 2004

Are they warning people not to pick them up with their teeth? The depths of people's ignorance is quite depressing - the council's statement is much more illuminating, though less entertaining.

The problem of gcns in school wildlife ponds is likely to increase though, I wonder how many of them slip through the net (oops, no pun intended) especially as many are quite recent and unlikely to appear on OS maps.


Chris Monk
Senior Member
Joined: 21 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 157


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Posted: 29 Oct 2004

Sue, the problem of protected species (gcn) in school ponds can increase even when we know about them. Often the teacher(s) who are interested and knowledgeable can move on and the school wildlife garden/pond falls into disrepair or is destroyed without anyone being any the wiser.

I have had to intervene twice at one school development to save gcn's, where I was asked to carry out a rescue about 10 years ago. After the first rescue (the day before contractors started a massive rebuilding programme to replace buildings destroyed by arson) to catch and move adult gcn using the edge of the site, a school wildlife area and pond was created as part of the development. The newts colonised this area from the adjacent private large garden pond, which had been the original source of the animals.

About 4 years ago by chance I was consulted by the planners as another large building was to be put on the site, with the majority of the wildlife area, including half the pond, under the buildings footprint. When reminded about the gcns they placed the building elsewhere.

Pond and wildlife area saved ? The building was delayed and temporary classrooms for 1 year were needed. Luckily the same planner contacted me, as the school didn't want to lose two grotty silver birch trees in close mown grass and was going to put the temporary buildings on the wildlife area within feet of the edge of the pond. Loud shouts of NO were heard. Luckily good consultants were then engaged, adequate protection for gcn undertaken, the new buildings completed, pond and wildlife area saved. Last year over 50 gcn recorded in the pond.

Once the biology teacher who has tipped us & the planners off each time leaves however, we will probably not know the next time a threat happens to the newts & their habitat.


Chris
Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group
www.derbyshirearg.co.uk

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