Harrogate Borough Council has granted permission to build 175 houses, on land in Knaresborough which once supported the largest known population of legally protected great crested newts in the country.
The discovery was made by volunteers with the Harrogate Trust for Wildlife Protection. They worked from dusk to dawn between 1989 and 1996, rescuing many hundreds of newts in their breeding seasons but numbers seen never decreased.
The charity’s work ended in 1996, with the first prosecution in the UK over great crested newts. Sand and gravel company Tilcon, was found guilty of damaging the habitat and crushing newts in its water pumping operations.
Great crested newts are a European protected species. The animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected in law.
The current landowner, Tarmac, has now been given permission to create a new pumping system, to continually remove surface water away from the 175 houses.
Harrogate Borough Council say they have followed the National Policy Planning Framework and have consulted with Natural England.
The charity say they have asked councillors to investigate its concerns, before deciding the planning application. It had called for the Planning Inspectorate to clarify, what influence two public inquiry reports about adjacent land should have, after warning at those inquiries, that what has now happened could happen again.
The charity has also alleged that developer ecology reports are misleading.
HBC say they have put all the required mitigation in place. An area and pond has been fenced off. Also drop-kerbs have been installed. The issues before was the newts were not being able to climb up a kerb and were then being washed down a drain. HBC have also said it believes the number present are very limited.
The charity raised concerns that an influencing factor has been the cost for delaying the development could result in heavy legal penalties to HBC.