A director for new market town plans in West Sussex has called the great-crested newt an ‘awful amphibian’.
Since 2012 Mayfield Market Towns has promoted a scheme for 10,000 new homes between Sayers Common and Henfield, something that has caused anger and widespread opposition from residents.
In a speech last week Lord James Borwick, a Tory peer in the House of Lords and a director for Mayfields, called for the Government to intervene to make it easier for developers to build houses.
Possible measures include looking at the regulations around great crested newts, and a reduction in the tax paid by developers.
Lord Borwick called the protected species an ‘awful amphibian’ and said the danger was that they could be transported to controversial housing sites by objectors in order to delay developments they disliked.
Speaking in the Lords last Tuesday (October 11), he added: “A simple change that can be made is to reduce the taxation level on developers, with a view to encouraging them to build, rather than overburdening them.
“In addition to normal corporation tax, a developer will provide social housing at a rate of between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of all houses built.
“Add to that new schools, new roads, new bus services, new playing fields, new community centres, new community art and new books in the local library—all necessary, of course, but all expensive.
“The simple rule is that if you add more taxes, you get fewer new entrants to a market.
“I hope I can be understood to be arguing not for less tax on my interests but for more development of the houses we desperately need.”
Froglife is a wildlife charity dedicated to the conservation of frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards.
Conservation coordinator for Froglife, Silviu Petrovan told BBC Radio 4’s Jeremy Vine: “The UK holds internationally important populations for the species which have been declining very significantly throughout the later half of the 20th century not only in Western Europe but the UK as well.”
He called the newt a ‘fascinating creature’ and explained that great crested newts are a symptom of the disappearance of ponds which are an ‘incredibly important’ biodiversity resource.
He also pointed out that a population of great crested newts never means that a site will not be developed.
In response, Lord Bourne, a parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Department for Communities and Local Government, said: “When I took on this post I absolutely insisted that I had authority in relation to great crested newts: this is central to what we are doing.
“In all seriousness, if he has evidence of a conspiracy to abuse public office by introducing these newts to try and slow down housebuilding and passes this on to me, I will ensure that it is addressed in the appropriate way.
“He rightly talked about the importance of proper incentives for housebuilding and asked about the future of the new homes bonus.
“As the noble lord will be aware, the Government have been consulting on the new homes bonus to see how we can sharpen the incentive to ensure that councils are genuinely incentivised to allow more homes in their area.
“We will provide further information on our next steps on that in due course.”
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