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Firm fined over threat to newts

PUBLISHED: 09:09 09 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:39 06 July 2010

A CONSTRUCTION firm has been fined after admitting damaging the habitat of endangered newts while building a hotel.

Work on the Travelodge hotel on Leisure Way in Lowestoft came to a standstill in spring 2008 when great crested newts, which are protected by law, were found living on the site.

A CONSTRUCTION firm has been fined after admitting damaging the habitat of endangered newts while building a hotel.

Work on the Travelodge hotel on Leisure Way in Lowestoft came to a standstill in spring 2008 when great crested newts, which are protected by law, were found living on the site.

Magistrates in Lowestoft heard yesterday that Barnes Construction, of Ipswich, started building the new hotel in April 2008.

Kevin Lawson, prosecuting, said that the land owners had already been granted a licence to trap the protected amphibians and move them onto neighbouring land which is owned by Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Newt-proof fencing was then put up to stop them returning onto the area to breed but after Barnes Construction moved on to the site, the fencing was not maintained or repaired.

Officers from Natural England, the body responsible for making sure that the newts are protected, visited on May 23 following a complaint that the fence had been removed in some areas and damaged in others, which might let the newts get back onto the site and potentially be injured or killed during building work.

Mr Lawson said: “Barnes Construction were told that all works should stop immediately, and an experienced ecologist should be brought in.” However the building work continued until June 3.

Ian Seeley, representing Barnes Construction, said the company was not told that it was in charge of maintaining the newt-proof fence, but pleaded guilty to damaging or destroying a resting place of great crested newts as it now realised its responsibility.

He said that building carried on until June 3 because the site managers were not explicitly told to stop working.

He said that once work stopped, newts on site were trapped and moved but building did not start again until the autumn, which cost the company about £30,000.

Barnes Construction was ordered to pay £915 in fines and costs.

Following the verdict, Natural England's wildlife enforcement specialist Paul Cantwell said: “This case highlights the need for construction companies to comply with the law in relation to protected species.”

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