Great crested newts: protection and licences

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

Applies to England

Great crested newts are a European protected species. The animals and their eggs, 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).

Use the Froglife website to identify great crested newts.

What you must not do

Things that would cause you to break the law include:

  • capturing, killing, disturbing or injuring great crested newts deliberately
  • damaging or destroying a breeding or resting place
  • 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 get an unlimited fine and up to 6 months in prison 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, such as 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:

Find out more about construction that affects protected species.

Other licences are available for different activities.

Pond management

You won’t need a licence for many cases of standard pond management works, but you will need to plan the work well to minimise the risk of deliberate killing, injuring or disturbing newts. By working carefully, you’ll make sure that your pond habitat recovers the following year.

Your work should normally be carried out in late autumn through winter, typically between early November to late January, when great crested newts are least likely to be present in ponds.

This time period varies per pond because some adults may live in some ponds in winter, or in some cases newts may leave the pond much earlier. If you have to do work in the summer months, for example because of ground conditions, then you’ll almost certainly need a licence.

You’ll need to consider the impact of the work on great crested newts before you start pond management. You should survey:

  • the pond to check for great crested newts (or other protected species)
  • the area immediately around the pond to consider whether the work will affect surrounding terrestrial great crested newt habitat

You should remember that large machinery can damage habitat and hibernacula. You must not deposit the silt removed from ponds on areas used by great crested newts.

You should immediately stop work if you find great crested newts in the pond before or after you start work if you’re doing pond management work without a licence. You should start your work at a different time or do it in a different way to avoid harming the newts. If you can’t avoid harming the newts then you’ll need to get a conservation licence.

Check the Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook for information on habitat management, pond creation and restoration.

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
Published 9 October 2014
Last updated 18 May 2015 + show all updates
  1. Pond management section added.

  2. Fully updated in consultation with Natural England.

  3. The links for more detail on surveys and mitigation are now higher up in the guide.

  4. First published.