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Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010
East Yorkshire is home to the rare great crested newt
Great crested newt, photo by Jim Foster
The great crested newt is commonly found across East Yorkshire and North and North-East Lincolnshire

Our region is home to one of Europe's rarest and protected creatures and recently they've been in the press for obstructing urban development.

The great crested newt can be found in wetland areas across the east of England.

They feel most at home in the damper, clay soil and can be found in high densities across wet lowland areas.

Because they are so rare across mainland Europe, great crested newts are protected by British and European law, in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the European Union's Habitats and Species Directive. As such it is illegal to harm or disturb great crested newts, their eggs and habitat.

There are three types of newts found in the UK: smooth, palmate and great crested
Great crested newts are the largest of the three species. They can grow up to 15cm in length
The great crested newt is also known as the warty newt due to the texture of its skin; its zoological name is Triturus cristatus
It is recognised by its dark brown or black colouring, with a bright orange or paler yellow underbelly
In spring, the males sport a jagged crest on the back, which is almost invisible when the newt is out of the water

England has the largest population in Europe, with our region being one of the main hotspots due to the numerous ponds and historical wetlands across the East Yorkshire landscape.

However, their numbers have reduced dramatically in the last 40 years due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat, mainly through intensive agriculture and urban development work.

"They're a species that we don't want to lose," said Emma MacDonald, the regional communications manager at Natural England.

"If their numbers carry on falling in the way that they have done in the last 40 years, then one day great crested newts might not exist in the country and that would be a real shame. It would be like losing part of our national identity and we really have a duty to look after it."

Recently a great crested newt was found on the Swinemoor estate in Beverley, where the East Riding Primary Care Trust is planning to build a new multi-million pound community hospital. The development work had to be postponed so a wildlife survey could be carried out on the site.

Usually a survey has to be carried out in wetland areas during the planning stages of a project. When a newt is found on a development site, a licence has to be granted by Natural England before any construction work can take place.

The licence can include measures to safely move great crested newts to another location or conditions for the development project to conserve the habitat.

Swinemoor land in Beverley
A great crested newt was found on the Swinemoor estate in January

"The cost of a newt survey is just a very, very small amount compared to what could happen if they were prosecuted, taken to court and fined," said Ms MacDonald.

"So it's a small price to pay really just to look after the local wildlife and do the right thing legally."

Natural England advises all developers to seek specialist advice early on in a planning process to limit the delay that finding a protected species on site can cause.

"We will always need hospitals, roads, community buildings - they're important places and it's about finding that balance," said Ms MacDonald.

"Natural England recognises that we need to work and support the development of these buildings in the right places whilst taking into account our natural heritage and wildlife and important species, particularly the protected ones like the great crested newts."

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