This morning (17/04/18) a European Protected Great Crested Newt was found on the land where Banks Group plans to start a new opencast coal extraction in the next seven weeks.
Banks Group have claimed that there are no newts on the site and that last summer a licensed ecologist surveyed the site. Banks told the first Community Liaison meeting in February that they consulted with Natural England and that they did not need a licence. However, Natural England and Durham County Council have told the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley that they do not have a copy of this report.
However, today’s finding shows that there are Great Crested Newts on the site. Great Crested Newts are a European Protected Species and as such a license is required from Natural England to destroy their habitat.
UK Coal carried out newt surveys in 2007, 2011 and 2014 all of which found Great Crested and smooth newts.
Mike Brand from Pont Valley Protection Camp said, “Today we found a protected Great Crested Newt at the Pont Valley, a beautiful part of countryside threatened by a new open cast mine, a vital and diverse wetland habitat, a home to rare species which would now be being destroyed by Banks Group if campaigners were not taking direct action to stop work beginning on an access road. Considering that Banks Group have a very tight deadline to finish building the access road and start digging by 3rd June, it seems very convenient that they argue there are no protected Great Crested Newts and thus would not have to take time consuming measures to ensure their safety whilst their habitat is destroyed for the open cast.”
Mike continues, “Today’s news shows without doubt that endangered species would be killed if an opencast were to happen here. Unless Banks Group want to commit a wildlife crime, they must conduct a current and full newt survey and obtain an updated license before starting any work. Banks Group simply cannot be trusted. This shows their total disregard for nature, alongside climate change and concerns of the local community.”
This application to opencast at the Bradley site was applied for by UK Coal, a now defunct mining company. UK coal have built four new newt ponds just off the site as they had expected to translocate Great Crested Newts from the site before they started work.