TESCO have been stopped in their tracks – by newts.
Builders working on the site of the Scissett Tesco Express have downed tools after it was revealed a newt fence needed to protect the tiny amphibians has not been installed.
A Kirklees bio-diversity officer visited the site last week and yesterday work came to a halt.
Although it is not a planning requirement, such measures are a legal requirement in areas where there is evidence of newts.
Tesco agreed to install a newt fence after a survey conducted by residents found evidence of the rare great crested newts.
Linda Heeley of the Save our Scissett environmental group said: “This isn’t about us stopping Tesco at all, but we want to protect what is there to protect.
“The Kirklees bio-diversity officer went to the site on his way home to see what the situation is and yesterday morning we’ve noticed they’ve downed tools.
“The newt fence has not been done and it’s taken for us to point it out. I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t because no-one had noticed it.
“Part of the site backs on to fields. There is a long stretch of land which needed the newt fence which would mean they’re not at risk.
“This is a legal requirement and they’ve not done it.”
Plans for the Tesco Express were unveiled in January last year and approved by Kirklees Council in March.
It is being built on the site of the former J S Auckland car spares site on Wakefield Road near to Scissett swimming pool.
Last autumn eco-campaigners vowed to protect a rare species of the great crested newt after a newt census found evidence of them in ponds on Sunnymead and Pilling Lane behind Scissett swimming baths.
Harming the protected species is a criminal offence and can incur a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months imprisonment per offence.
Anyone wanting to work in sites where newts are found needs a European Protected Species licence.
A spokeswoman for Tesco said: “Our contractors have had a survey carried out on the site which didn’t find newts so we carried on as normal.
“There was then some fuss from local people who asked the council to go back and have another look so we stopped the work to allow the council on site and carry out their own survey which found newts in the area.
“So we agreed to install a fence on there as a gesture of goodwill.
“But it’s not a planning condition and we have permission to carry on with the work where it is safe to do so. Other work has been put on hold while the fence is done which will be on Thursday.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “The council was contacted about this on Thursday of last week and a visit was carried out later the same day.
“Site work stopped on Monday and we have been liaising closely with the developer to ensure a newt fence is installed as soon as possible. Until that time construction work has been put on hold.
“This particular site is low risk for great crested newts, but they are a European protected species and it remains important to adhere to habitat regulations.
“We are continuing to work with the developer and the issue is likely to be resolved quickly.”