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Newts wander free as wildlife and home owners happily ‘co-exist’ at Peters Village

Environmental studies at Peters Village in Kent show that people and wildlife are flourishing side by side.

The new 1,000-home community near Wouldham offers a green and diverse environment for residents. It holds extensive views of the River Medway and adjoining reed beds, scrubland, wooded hills and chalky habitats in the historic Peters Pit Quarry nature reserve; a permanent landmark and reminder of local history and heritage.

These rich natural resources have benefited from sympathetic habitat creation and enhancement by Peters Village developer Trenport, over the past decade or so – now highlighted by a three-year environmental study.

Most notably, it shows wildlife using purpose-built passages beneath roads and trackways to move between the substantial retained areas of green space, when they might otherwise be at risk from vehicle traffic.

In particular, Great Crested Newts – a protected species – are using these tunnels exactly as hoped and planned: to explore between the designated Peters Pit SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and land beside the River Medway. This allows this rare species to avoid what are known as fragmentation effects, when countryside is divided by roads, housing and industry.

Pictured: Great Crested Newts. The highlighted creature is a female and she has just laid an egg - the white spot on the vegetation behind her.

Ecologist Tom Langton has enjoyed an overview of the project for Trenport and its predecessors for over 30 years, through surveys and designing habitat measures and is delighted by the studies progress:

“It’s rewarding news for all those who have worked so hard to make the project work. The Government’s Natural England agency licenced the project and the charity Froglife assisted with special technology to count amphibians, small mammals and other animals moving through the passages. Both are thanked for their support and close involvement.

“This is now the third year of a five-year study of passage use and Trenport’s wildlife ranger Terry Venn has played a major role in driving the project towards its final goals.

“The four passages, the largest of which is around 20 metres long, have roof slots to let rain in and allow air circulation. They are joined to special low fences that prevent animals from getting onto the road and being hit, while enabling them to move safely to the other side.

“The measures together show how large-scale mitigation and licencing for house building can be a success by designing a future for them within the places where we live, without physically re-locating animals to new areas, with often dubious net gain.

“And they show that if wildlife population survival is properly planned, people moving onto a new development can enjoy the area’s wild animals and plants close-up as much as other recreational space options.

“They also have enviable opportunities to participate in the real wealth of surrounding wildlife in this part of Kent. Charities such as the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) and schools are close by too, offering further advice and opportunities for all generations to join in.’’

Trenport Director Chris Hall said: ‘’We are pleased that our partnership with KWT, which carries out much of the day to day wildlife conservation, has resulted in hundreds of newts being recorded within our network of wetlands across Peters Village – our Great Crested Newt population is one of the top sites in England.

“This results from a long-term investment over four decades, with the aim of integrating new homes with the natural environment – nearly 170 of the projected 1,000 homes are now occupied at Peters Village.

“It follows intricate decision making and considerable financial investment, so it is pleasing to read this report and find many species using the corridors, plus new ponds, grassland, hedges and other features preserved and formed as a coherent open spaces provision.

“Looking ahead so that, for example, trees and hedges are fully formed before the first keys to new homes are handed over is what ‘planning for the future’ is all about and we are delighted by the numbers and movements of the newts, plus success in conserving other important species such as dormice, bats and birds.

“We hope the next ten years will consolidate this work and complete the experts’ studies. As onsite building disturbance settles, a vibrant and attractive area will show how house building and the environment can move forward hand in hand.

“We would like to thank the dozens of people who, over the years, have contributed to getting us to this exciting moment.’’