The amorous activities of a group of newts have led to a £90m retail development being put on hold. Great crested newts are a protected species and those on the development site on the edge of York have to be individually caught and moved to nearby wetlands. But the wet summer provided an exceptionally good breeding season and newt numbers rocketed from just five to more than 300.
Work on the new Monks Cross retail development, including two superstores, was to have begun early this year, but now it will now not be able to start until the spring. Under rules laid out by Natural England - the authority which issues "newt licences" and enforces the species' protected status - all the great crested newts on the site will have to be individually caught and rehomed to a nearby specially created £300,000 wetland habitat.
The newts are currently hibernating and their capture and rehoming will now depend on the weather, according to ecologist Dr Mark Hampton. "They usually start emerging again when temperatures are consistently above five degrees, so at the moment it's just a rather frustrating waiting game,” he said.
Richard France, director of developers Oakgate, said: "Naturally I'm disappointed that work cannot start as early as we would have liked it to. However, as developers, we take our responsibility to the environment seriously and are making sure all the newts are appropriately rehomed in line with our legal requirements.”