District Level Licensing Explained

District Level Licensing for Great Crested Newts can be complex. Joe Travis, Assistant Ecologist, blogs here about what it means for developers.

Joe Travis
Written by:

Joe Travis

January 17, 2022

District Level Licensing (DLL) was introduced by Natural England in 2016 as an alternative to the traditional licensing approach for great crested newts (GCN), and is now available across the majority of England. The DLL scheme allows developers to proceed with their proposals where there is a likelihood of GCN being present on their site during the works, and is based upon the presence of ponds within 250 metres of the site.

DLL offers an alternative approach to licensing where the focus is on the delivery of habitat compensation. When entering the scheme, developers pay for new aquatic habitats (ponds) based on the predicted impact of their development. The payment covers the creation or restoration of off-site ponds and their ongoing monitoring and management (within district areas or zones identified to be potentially important for GCN populations). The pond works are delivered by a range of bodies, such as Wildlife Trusts, who will be responsible for ensuring that the ponds are maintained and monitored for 25 years – all funded by the ‘Conservation Payment’.

The payment for DLL is made up of three parts:

  • Set enquiry fee of £570 +VAT
  • Set license fee of £690
  • Site specific ‘Conservation Payment’

The ‘Conservation Payment’ is variable and depends on the level of impact a proposed development is likely to have on local GCN populations. Natural England calculate this payment based on the area of a pond, and its surrounding 250 metre terrestrial habitat, which falls within the development’s site boundary. The greater the area of the overlap between the site and the pond’s 250 metre boundary, the greater the ‘Conservation Payment’ to join the scheme.

Field with pond in summer

Ecus can help to estimate the costs of the ‘Conservation Payment’ that a proposal is likely to incur. With just the provision of a simple site boundary we can estimate the cost of entry into the DLL scheme prior to any payments being made to Natural England. We can also offer expert advice on whether this is the best approach for the particular site.

The DLL scheme process of licensing for GCN is much simpler than the traditional licensing approach. Some benefits for developers include:

  • No necessity for GCN surveys –the restrictions under the traditional approach, such as having to wait for the appropriate time of the year to survey ponds (mid-March to June), are no longer necessary and applications to the scheme can be made year-round. There are also no delays caused by the subsequent fencing and trapping of GCN on the site ahead of works beginning.
  • Off-site habitat compensation – developers no longer have to set aside areas of a proposed development to create compensation areas.
  • DLL can be used to support planning applications –the acceptance of the enquiry from Natural England can be used in a planning application to demonstrate that GCN are considered and are no longer a constraint for the development.

For help with District Level Licensing, contact our Ecology team or your nearest Ecus office.