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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2008, 12:23 GMT

Newts stop flood ditch clearance

Great Crested Newt
The newts are protected by law

A couple have been told not to clear an overgrown ditch which caused their farmhouse to be flooded as it may be home to endangered newts.

John and Margie Histed's 300-year-old Grade-II listed house in Dauntsey, Wiltshire, has been flooded twice.

The Environment Agency has told them an overgrown drainage ditch is one of the factors causing the flooding.

But the Highways Agency said it could not be cleared, because it might be a habitat for the Great Crested Newt.

The ditch runs alongside the M4, close to the couple's home.

The species is so rare that potential habitats are protected by law and work cannot take place to develop such sites without a thorough trawl for newt colonies.

Mr Histed, 71, said: "I'm quite keen on nature myself so I understand that species need to be protected but you do get illogical contradictions like this.

"We hadn't realised quite how bad the ditch was until we were flooded again."

The couple have been living in a mobile home in the 10-acre grounds of their six bedroomed home while flood repairs are taking place and walls are drying out.

The ditches have to be adequately assessed before clearing out to ensure we are not damaging the habitat
Highways Agency spokesman

They have been told by lawyers that they might be able to challenge the decision but in the meantime said they lived in fear of another spring storm.

"Another rainfall could cause another flood and that could set us back months again," said Mr Histed.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: "Some of the ditches along the M4 have been identified as potential habitats for the Great Crested Newt, which is a European-protected species.

"The ditches have to be adequately assessed before clearing out to ensure we are not damaging the habitat.

"Other ditches in the area have been identified as not being environmentally sensitive and have been cleared."



SEE ALSO
Newts may push up building costs
23 Feb 08 |  Leicestershire
Newt colony's 70,000 relocation
08 Oct 07 |  London

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