ANGRY eco-campaigners have hit out at the lack of progress in protecting a rare species of newt found near Huddersfield.
Members of Save our Scissett (SOS), a group formed to protect the rural village from development, say the habitat of the great crested newt is being destroyed on a patch of land set aside for 92 new houses.
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 the vicinity of great crested newts has to request a licence.
The tiny amphibians have already been responsible for delaying high profile building projects including part of the 2012 Olympics site in London.
But SOS members told the Examiner that Kirklees Council’s environment team and Natural England, the government’s environment department, were ignoring their local newts and didn’t seem bothered that part of their habitat, a dry stone wall, was knocked down last month.
SOS members have even paid £900 for their own eco-survey to prove that newts were living in the area.
It confirmed that newts were in ponds on Sunnymead and Pilling Lane, behind Scissett swimming baths.
But despite home building being imminent, the developers are yet to apply for a newt licence.
SOS member Sue Lockwood said they had alerted the police but still no action had been taken.
She said: “It’s not a question of newts being there because we’ve proved that they are.
“They know they are there.
“Someone has moved a wall that was part of their habitat but Kirklees don’t seem interested.
“Not Kirklees, not the developer, nobody whatsoever.
“We’re not nimbys we just want to protect these newts.”
A spokesman for Natural England said the responsibility for enforcing newt licences lay with Kirklees Council and the police, but confirmed any development on the land would in theory be a breach of the law.
The spokesman said: “We do try and liaise with the police and let them know of any offences. One of the main problems is it’s not a high priority for the police. They do have wildlife enforcement officers but there’s often a limit to their resources.”
A Kirklees Council spokesman, said: “Planning permission has been given to develop a site about 200 metres from the garden ponds and the developers will require a European Protected Species licence before that work starts.
“ However, work has not yet started so no offence has been committed.
“The council is investigating the removal of some dry stone walling at the development site, which may serve as a refuge for great-crested newts, although there is no evidence of any harm to newts and the risk of this is relatively low.
“The council is seeking to establish who has removed the stone.”
The council spokesman added that a project to increase the population of great-crested newts was underway in the Denby Dale area.
PC Sally Smart, West Yorkshire Police Force wildlife officer, said she was aware of the concerns and planned to meet local residents.