Great Crested Newts Threaten Boris Johnson’s Luxury Swimming Pool Project

Great Crested Newts Threaten Boris Johnson’s Luxury Swimming Pool Project

Boris Johnson’s plans to construct an outdoor swimming pool at his Oxfordshire country manor face potential obstacles due to concerns over great crested newts.

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The former prime minister’s planning application has received a holding objection, as local authorities worry that the construction could pose a threat to the rare amphibian population.

The Swimming Pool Project:

The planning application, submitted in June to the South Oxfordshire District Council, proposed the installation of an 11-by-four-metre swimming pool on the grounds of Johnson’s Grade II-listed Brightwell Manor, where he resides with his wife Carrie and their three children.

Great Crested Newts at Risk:

The holding objection was raised by the South and Vale countryside officer, Edward Church, who expressed concerns about the potential impact of the development on the local great crested newt population.

Church’s report highlighted the presence of known populations of great crested newts in the east of the village and the existence of a pond and moat in close proximity to the proposed pool’s location.

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The development area falls within a “red zone,” indicating the highest risk to these rare amphibians.

Implications and Possible Mitigation:

With the project site located in an area where newts are expected to be abundant, traditional methods of rescuing and relocating them might be required.

This process could involve catching and counting the creatures and creating “compensation” ponds to replace those lost to the construction of the pool.

Alternatively, Johnson could opt for a district level license, which would negate the need for additional surveys but could entail charges based on the pool’s impact on the newts.

The funds collected from such charges would be used by conservationists to create new ponds elsewhere.

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Great Crested Newts and Conservation:

Great crested newts are protected under both UK and European wildlife laws due to their declining numbers and the threat posed by habitat loss.

These amphibians are characterized by their black bodies with spotted flanks and orange bellies. Conservation efforts aim to protect their populations and create suitable habitats for their survival.

Past Criticism of “Newt-Counting” Red Tape:

Interestingly, in 2020, while serving as prime minister, Boris Johnson had criticized what he referred to as “newt-counting” red tape in the planning system, claiming it caused delays in housebuilding and hindered economic productivity in the UK.

As the future of Johnson’s swimming pool project hangs in the balance, the impact on the great crested newt population remains a focal point of concern for local authorities and conservationists alike.

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