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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 November 2006, 11:53 GMT
Newts get 300k re-homing project
Great crested newt
The newts are being moved to a brand new home
A rare species of newt has won a victory for Britain's amphibians as Highways Agency bosses put their duty to nature above road-building.

The agency is spending about 300,000 to capture a colony of great crested newts near a 51m road project.

The newts have been relocated to make way for work on the Deeside Park junction of the A5117 in Cheshire.

Officials said a number had been caught so far but refused to confirm reports the figure was 15 or 20,000 a newt.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: "The work is currently ongoing and a number of great crested newts have been trapped.

"It is not possible to give a final figure because the work is still under way.

"We have a duty to ensure newts are protected and moved to the safety of nearby ponds to avoid them being harmed during the construction of the road scheme."

EU protection

The money has been spent installing 15 miles of special fencing near the junction to trap the newts, which are then re-located to the safety of nearby ponds.

Newt expert Dorothy Wright, from the Herpetological Conservation Trust, said: "When a lot of money is spent and only a few newts are saved it would be great if that money could have been spent to increase the viability of local populations."

Latest figures suggest there are about 100,000 great crested newts left in the UK, with the population falling by about 20% in the last 50 years.

The newts, which are a protected species under European legislation, breed in ponds but spend part of their life cycle on the land.

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