For British Homeowners, No Newts Is Good Newts | Kanebridge News
Share Button

For British Homeowners, No Newts Is Good Newts

Endangered amphibian endangers new construction for pop stars and politicians; Boris Johnson promises to build a ‘newtopia’ to compensate for a swimming pool

By MAX COLCHESTER
Fri, Aug 25, 2023 9:05amGrey Clock 4 min

EASTCOURT, England—The bane of Britain’s great and powerful is a couple of inches long, has warty skin and a bright orange underbelly—and the power to disrupt some of their most heartfelt ambitions.

Singer Ed Sheeran, King Charles and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson are among the many homeowners in Britain who have, at one time or another, been warned they might have to alter their building plans to accommodate the great crested newt.

Britain is a country where the public proudly regard themselves as animal lovers. There are no wolves, lynxes or bears left in the wild here. But it turns out parts of the island nation have one of the greatest concentrations of great crested newts in Europe.

The tiny amphibian has a protected status here because its population is shrinking. Purposely killing a crested newt or destroying its habitat can result in a six-month jail sentence and unlimited fine. So before anything is built, Britons must be sure the area is newt-free and no newt home is harmed, a process that can take months and cost thousands of pounds.

Johnson once railed against “newt counting” as a symbol of excessive red tape hampering Britain’s notoriously slow housing developers. But when his plan to build a swimming pool at his Oxfordshire manor was recently delayed because it might disturb newts that might be in his nearby moat, Johnson offered to roll out the red carpet. He pledged to build a special pond, or, as he called it, “a newtopia,” to house them. He declined to comment further.

If a newt is found in a pond near a construction site, mitigation measures must be taken before the first brick is laid. That can range from building a special “newt fence” to protect it from wandering into harm’s way to hand collecting newts to move them to an artificial wetland, a la Johnson’s planned pond.

The regulations have spawned numerous newt consultants, who charge a fee that starts at around £200 ($253) to make sure homeowners don’t run afoul of the law. Teams of trained sniffer dogs can be employed to comb ponds near construction sites to give the all-clear. There are specially constructed “newt tunnels” dug under several major British roads—often costing millions of pounds—that allow the animals to crawl around freely. They have to be over 6 feet wide; otherwise they get too chilly and the newts refuse to use them.

On a recent day, Freya, a lively 8-year-old springer spaniel, charged around a field here in southwestern England, lying prone whenever she sniffed a crested newt. Her handler, Nikki Glover, is an ecologist who works for Wessex Water, a utility that wants to install water pipes in the area in September. It needs a newt count before it embarks on plans to move them to a suitable habitat.

Soon after starting to sniff around, Freya tugs at her leash and dives into a thick bush of brambles. “There’s interest there,” Glover says, before yanking on a blue plastic glove, crouching into the undergrowth, and reaching into a small muddy crevice. Her hand emerges cradling a newt.

The British government champions kits that detect DNA in pond water that it says can cut the red tape and find crested newts when they congregate during their breeding season. Annoyingly it means the tests must be completed between March and July as that is the only time the newts get it on, an elaborate ceremony which can include the small male newt tail-whipping his larger partner. “There are seasonal constraints,” says John Wenman, who runs an ecological consulting firm in Berkshire.

The little amphibian plays an outsize role in British culture. “Eye of newt” is a key ingredient in the witches brew in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (although even those witches wouldn’t actually hurt a newt—the expression is a pseudonym for mustard seed). When British people get very drunk they say they are “pissed as a newt” (origins unclear but perhaps linked to young sailors who were called “newts”). Former London mayor Ken Livingstone made political hay by owning pet newts.

Recently, newts have suffered a public-relations setback, becoming a symbol for unnecessary bureaucracy in a country where getting permission to build anything is lengthy and expensive. Britain faces an acute housing shortage, and homes remain unaffordable for many families. “For many years now, the great crested newt has had to live with a bad name,” Natural England, a government agency tasked with protecting the environment, warned on a blog a few years back.

In 2018, a council in Nottingham tendered for a contract worth up to £40,000 to relocate some 40 newts from a construction zone. When developing the stadium for the 2012 London Olympics, newts on the site in east London were hand collected in special plastic bottles and moved elsewhere. In 2017 the U.K. government reported that a house builder once paid an average of £2,261.55, or more than $2,800, per relocated newt. “No newts is good newts,” said one headline in Building Magazine.

Actress Cate Blanchett had to acquire a special license after newt consultants concluded there was “average to excellent habitat suitability” for crested newts in nearby water. She is trying to install several solar panels at her house in Sussex. King Charles was warned about disturbing newts by a British amphibian lobby group when he recently proposed to build a gift shop at his residence at Highgrove. Crested newts briefly threatened a plan by Ed Sheeran to build a chapel on his property until he built an amphibian-proof fence to protect them.

Many newt consultants rely on low-tech methods such as “torching,” or shining flashlights at ponds during the night to count crested newts. Glover, the ecologist, swears by dogs.

To teach Freya to find newts, Glover turned to Louise Wilson, a veteran dog trainer in north Wales who cut her teeth using canines to search for improvised explosive devices and drugs.

When a sewage pipe cracked near Bristol recently, before Wessex Water could stop the effluent from flowing out it had to first make sure no crested newts would be harmed by the diggers turning up to do the repair. Glover and Freya appeared and within days had evacuated 86 newts. She estimates more traditional methods would have required a month of newt hunting.

“There is no other tool that would show you there is a newt in the burrow,” she says.



MOST POPULAR

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Property
UAE Residential Market Review Shows Strong Growth and Record Transactions in Q1 2024
Property
Economic Bridges: Supporting Middle Eastern Migration to the U.S.
Property
NHC to construct 20k residential units in partnership with China Machinery Engineering Corp.
UAE Residential Market Review Shows Strong Growth and Record Transactions in Q1 2024

The total transaction volume in Abu Dhabi for the first quarter of the year reached 2,795.

Thu, May 16, 2024 4 min

The CBRE Middle East, a global leader in commercial real estate services and investments, released its latest edition of the UAE Residential Market Review for the first quarter of 2024.

Abu Dhabi Market Overview

During the first quarter of the year, the total volume of transactions in Abu Dhabi stood at 2,795, registering a 22.6% increase compared to the year prior. This increase has been underpinned by an 18.1% rise in off-plan sales and a 34.5% rise in secondary market sales. In the year to Q1 2024, Abu Dhabi’s average apartment and villa prices increased by 4.3% and 2.3%, respectively.

Abu Dhabi’s rental market witnessed a total of 46,130 residential rental contracts in Q1 2024, registering a decline of 10.9% from the year prior. This has been due to a 15.5% decline in the number of renewed rental contracts registered and a 2.4% drop in new rental registrations over the same period. In the year to Q1 2024, average apartment and villa rents have increased by 4.5% and 1.1%, respectively. On the supply front, only 80 units have been delivered in Abu Dhabi in the first three months of the year, with all of this new stock being in Al Raha Beach. An additional 8,660 units are expected to be completed by year-end with 55.8% of this scheduled stock located in Yas Island, Al Sowwah, and Al Shamkha.

Dubai Market Insights

In Dubai, price growth has continued to accelerate during the first quarter of 2024, with average prices increasing by 20.7% in the year to March 2024. Throughout this period, average apartment and villa prices increased by 20.4% and 22.1%, respectively. Although headline average sales rates are still marginally below the 2014 highs by 0.1%, several prominent residential neighbourhoods have already surpassed their 2014 figures.

As of March 2024, average apartment prices stood at AED 1,486 per square foot, and average villa prices reached AED 1,776 per square foot. Average villa sales rates are currently above their 2014 baseline by 22.9%. Rental growth has also gained momentum in 2024, after a period of moderation in 2023. In March 2024, average residential rents registered a year-on-year increase of 21.2%, up from the 20.4% growth registered a month earlier. Over this period, average apartment and villa rental rates grew by 22.1% and 14.5%, respectively. Data from the Dubai Land Department revealed that, in the year to date to March 2024, the total number of rental registrations stood at 159,941, marking an increase of 5.8% from the previous year. As for supply, a total of 6,526 units were delivered in the first quarter of the year, with 59.7% of this supply being located in Meydan One, Jumeirah Village Circle, and Al Furjan. A further 46,086 are expected to be handed over the remainder of the year. However, given historic materialisation rates, the report expects that a limited portion of this upcoming stock will come online as planned.

Record-Breaking Transactions

March 2024 witnessed another record in Dubai’s residential market, with transaction volumes reaching the highest monthly figure on record, marking a year-on-year growth of 13.2%. Throughout this period, off-plan sales and secondary market sales increased by 20.2%, and secondary market sales increased by 2.2%.

In the first quarter of 2024, Dubai’s total transaction volumes reached 35,310. This is the highest total ever recorded in the first quarter of the year, marking an increase of 20.5% from the year prior. Over this period, off-plan transactions recorded an increase of 23.9%, and secondary market transactions rose by 15.2%.

However, in Q1 2024, the total number of sales transactions within the prime market segment registered a decline of 2.1% compared to the year prior. Throughout this period, super-prime transactions recorded a drop of 16.5% year-on-year to stand at a total of 227. These declines witnessed in both markets have been largely underpinned by significant declines in off-plan sales largely attributable to the high levels of demand for off-plan properties and the limited level of upcoming supply. In terms of performance, in the first quarter of 2024, average prime prices registered a year-on-year increase of 16.0%, standing at an average of AED 4,661 per square foot, and average super-prime prices grew by 14.8% over this period, reaching AED 4,978 per square foot.

Taimur Khan, CBRE’s Head of Research MENA in Dubai

Future Projections 

Looking ahead, CBRE expects Dubai’s residential sales market to maintain its upward trajectory. Prices in both the apartment and villa segments of the market will continue to grow, however, not at the same pace. On the rental front, we forecast that residential rents will continue to increase. That being said, the rate of growth will likely moderate.

Taimur Khan, CBRE’s Head of Research MENA in Dubai, comments: “The UAE’s residential market started the year on a relatively strong note, where the elevated demand levels continue to drive performance. The strong levels of activity and high absorption levels, which have reduced available supply, will continue to support price growth in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the remainder of the year. In terms of rental growth, we expect that rental rates in Abu Dhabi will continue to rise, with prime areas set to outperform the market. In Dubai, residential rents will continue to increase; however, not at the same rate that we have been seeing to date, and we expect that the rate of change will diminish in the second half of the year.”

MOST POPULAR

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop