Sustainability 26 April 2019

Setting a New Precedent: Protected Species Mitigation Licensing

Infrastructure projects can have a significant impact on local wildlife and ecology, and where work may affect a European Protected Species (EPS), such as Great Crested Newts (GCN) or badgers, a license must be obtained from Natural England before work can take place. Subsequent mitigation requirements can be time consuming, expensive and cause significant and long-term impact by delaying time critical works, such as gantry installation. Working with Natural England, the team on the London to Corby project became the first ever to take advantage of a new approach to EPS licensing, enabling it to set a new precedent in ecology management, deliver programme requirements, achieve biodiversity benefits and save money.

Benefits at a Glance:

  • Natural England issued the first ever project-wide mitigation licences for protected species under the new licensing approach
  • Financial savings of approximately £500,000
  • Programme certainty and operational flexibility
  • A compensatory offset: a proportion of the savings incurred from this new approach will be invested in a new habitat for Great Crested Newts
  • A net positive outcome for biodiversity

When numerous GCN ponds were discovered on the London to Corby project, the team worked directly with Natural England to devise a new approach to EPS licensing that was not only better for the local environment and the protected species but also drove project efficiencies.

Natural England’s existing licensing approach had focused on individual GCN at locations where there was a little chance of them thriving in the long term. In recognition that this could sometimes result in projects surveying and moving small numbers of animals with little or no ecological benefit, Natural England issued new guidance on EPS licenses for protected species.

The new licensing approach removed the need for the project team to relocate or exclude GCN from the development site, provided that a new habitat could be created to enhance the local population of the protected species. However, a precautionary method of working was put in place to reduce the short- term impact to the GCN population.


  • The new approach removed the requirement for fencing and trapping newts and this was estimated to have saved the project a minimum of £500,000
  • The provision of habitat compensation was achieved locally, which was better for the protected species, and the project
  • The compensation habitat area was secured through a legal agreement over a 30-year period
  • London to Corby became the first infrastructure and large-scale project to implement the new process.

Lessons Learned/Best Practice

  • Requirements can only go so far in influencing behaviour. It takes drive from individuals to make a material impact on sustainability and encourage everyone to play their part
  • Senior managers from across Network Rail and its supply chain partners championed the change
  • Sustainability must be regarded as a core business process. On the Midland Main Line programme, there is a team dedicated to sustainable practices, drawn from Network Rail and its supply chain partners
  • Celebrate success; this initiative drove positive coverage across internal communications, from newsletters to team briefings, and also in the rail press.

Further Reading:

  • Midland Main Line programme sustainability strategy



  • Ecological constraints on London to Corby