THOUSANDS of pounds have been spent on surveys and temporary fencing at a Cheshire development – to protect newts that weren’t there.
The measures were put in place at the £2.5m Tattenhall Marina after an initial survey seemed to indicate there was a pair of Great Crested Newts close to the site.
Evidence of the newts was found off-site during an initial wildlife survey, meaning that landowner Bolesworth had to spend £26,000 employing a licensed ecologist and carrying out surveys at the site plus an additional £30,000 for a perimeter fence.
The specially-designed newt fencing has now been thrown away as there is no further use for it.
Bolesworth land agent Matthew Morris said: “This all came about as part of the planning process.
“You have to get a licence from Natural England before you can even put up the fencing and start work, meaning the construction process can be slowed down or delayed by up to 12 months because the process of removing newts is so complicated.
“We had to spend a huge amount of money – but when it came to trapping we didn’t find a single newt.
“However, we had to behave as if newts could get in and we checked the entire perimeter each day.
“Ironically, what we have ended up with is a habitat that is more beneficial to newts than it was before the land was developed.
“We are adversely affected by newts because around 90% of the UK Great Crested Newt population is in Cheshire and Staffordshire.
“But I feel that this money could have been better spent elsewhere.
“This is simply a case of newt welfare being placed before rural prosperity at a time when we should be doing all we can to ensure that village communities are able to survive the recession.”