AN independent ecologist believes that great crested newts could be roaming the patch of land where a bulk recycling facility is due to be built.

This means that if Powys County Council (PCC) go ahead with its £4 million scheme, it could be breaking the Endangered Species Law.

Villagers in Abermule have brought in an independent expert to look at the issue.

Sarah Rochelle of The Ecology Consultancy has examined the data and criticises the investigation of the site conducted by PCC’s own experts, Middlemarch.

Middlemarch tested the site for great crested newts in October and November 2018.

Great crested newt mitigation guidelines, state that trapping should be done for a minimum of 30 nights, in suitable conditions.

And, that five days with no captures is required before the site can be considered free of newts.

The data from Middlemarch shows there was a  a five day suspension of trapping during a colder snap and after four nights of no captures the work finished on November 11.

Ms Rochelle said: “It is considered that the trapping effort was insufficient to declare that the site is free of great crested newts.”

She believed that the investigation should have stopped until the spring after air temperatures went below five degrees Celsius.

And the trapping stopped after four days rather than the five days explained in the method statement.

This summer, residents have complained that vegetation has been left to grow wild on the site and that fences have been poorly maintained.

Ms Rochelle points that  this directly affects the area where the newts could live.

“As the habitat appears to remain intact there is reason to believe that newts may have moved back to the site, particularly given the poorly maintained fencing,” said Ms Rochelle.

“As a result it is considered that the presence of great crested newts cannot be discounted and that if development works were to proceed there is a high risk of committing an offence under current legislation. ”

Middlemarch has said that a series of avoidance and mitigation proposals will be needed to make sure the development does not impact the great crested newts associated with a pond there.

To this effect two ponds will be part of the project.

Middlemarch said: “We will complete annual population monitoring surveys throughout the development period and for three years after completion.

“Regular reports will be produced and provided to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) detailing findings and any remedial recommendations required.”

A spokesperson for PCC said that its ecologists had visitted the site and added: “We are not aware of any reports of newts on the site at Abermule.”

County Times:

In May the PCC cabinet voted unanimously in favour of the £4 million project.

PCC has stressed  that the facility is to help the authority deal with hitting the Welsh Government recycling targets of 70 per cent by 2024/25.

It believes the recycling bulking facility is “essential to maximise the efficiency” of the collection vehicles and is “ideally located between the two main population centres of north Powys,” Welshpool and Newtown.