Environmental management – guidance

Great crested newts: protection and licences

What you must do to avoid harming great crested newts and when you’ll need a licence.

The content on this page is in beta and may be updated frequently.

Great crested newts are a European protected species. The animals, its eggs and their breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.

You may be able to get a licence from Natural England if you’re planning an activity and can’t avoid disturbing them or damaging their habitats (ponds and the land around ponds).

What you must not do

Things that would cause you to break the law include:

  • capturing, killing, disturbing or injuring great crested newts (deliberately or by not taking enough care)
  • damaging or destroying a breeding or resting place (deliberately or by not taking enough care)
  • obstructing access to their resting or sheltering places (deliberately or by not taking enough care)
  • possessing, selling, controlling or transporting live or dead newts, or parts of them
  • taking great crested newt eggs

You could be sent to prison for up to 6 months and be fined £5,000 for each offence if you’re found guilty.

Find out what to do if you’ve seen wildlife crime and how to report it.

Activities that can harm great crested newts

Activities that can affect great crested newts include:

  • maintaining or restoring ponds, woodland, scrub or rough grassland
  • restoring forest areas to lowland heaths
  • ploughing close to breeding ponds or other bodies of water
  • removing dense vegetation and disturbing the ground
  • removing materials like dead wood piled on the ground
  • excavating the ground, for example to renovate a building
  • filling in or destroying ponds or other water bodies

Building and development work can harm great crested newts and their habitats, for example if it:

  • removes habitat or makes it unsuitable
  • disconnects or isolates habitats, eg by splitting it up
  • changes habitats of other species, reducing the newts’ food sources
  • increases shade and silt in ponds or other water bodies used by the newts
  • changes the water table
  • introduces fish, which will eat newt eggs or young
  • increases the numbers of people, traffic and pollutants in the area or the amount of chemicals that run off into ponds

In many cases you should be able to avoid harming the newts, damaging or blocking access to their habitats by adjusting your plans. Contact an ecologist for more information about how to avoid harming the newts.

If you can’t avoid this, you can apply for a mitigation licence from Natural England. You’ll need expert help from an ecologist:

Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environment Management Environmental Data services (ENDS) Directory

Find out more about construction that affects protected species.

Other licences are available for different activities.

Activities you don’t need a licence for

Activities you can do that wouldn’t break that law include:

  • rescuing a great crested newt if it would die otherwise
  • doing work to a pond during the winter when no great crested newts are likely to be present

Further information

Identify great crested newts - Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

Contact your local wildlife trust