Newt colony fear wrecks Wrexham jobs hope

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

THEY are the kings of the lily pad – a protected species with a cult following among animal lovers.

Now a company says great crested newts have stopped its plan to create new jobs in Wrexham.

HTC Management Services was aiming to build hundreds of the specialist machines it has developed to clean and line lead water pipes at its plant in Red Wither Road on Wrexham Industrial Estate.

To do this it needed to convert a piece of land to build a staff car park and other facilities for its existing and extra staff.

But it was put on hold when it was discussed by the borough council’s planning committee as officers suspect the land may be a habitat for the protected newts.

Company bosses have now withdrawn the application and say they are looking to build the machine elsewhere.

HTC, which has operated in Wrexham for 30 years, has pioneered a £105,000 mobile pipe cleaning and lining machine.

In deferring planning permission, the council said the development would mean moving a watercourse which would affect the habitat of the amphibians thought to be there.

Councillors called for a further environmental report, even though the company says it had already commissioned one from a specialist company, which stated there were no newts currently on the land, nor was it thought suitable as a habitat for them.

HTC’s marketing and sales manager, Leonard Ellison, who led the project, said the company had now decided it would not spend any more money on the plan.

He said: “It has cost us a great deal already, including for a number of highly specialist reports. Our managing director is now looking at possible sites to build the new machine in Yorkshire and we may also consider Cork in the Republic of Ireland.

“If we produced the machine here, we would need to take on 20 to 30 more engineers to build them. That probably will not happen now.”

He added: “The great crested newt is protected under an EU regulation, but I told the planning committee that the regulations are archaic and more consideration is given to newts than people.

“This is an industrial estate, for goodness sake, and I believe that the council should move the newts if they are there.”

Lawrence Isted, the council’s chief planning officer, said the planning committee decided to defer a decision until September after advice that additional surveys and some changes to the proposals were necessary.

He said: “A representative of the company attended the committee and was given the opportunity to address the members, so was aware of this decision.

“HTC wrote to withdraw their application on July 30.

“I advised the company to speak to their ecology consultants to see what would be needed to address their recommendations with regard to further survey work and on-site mitigation.

“This would enable the company to resubmit an application that the committee may think more favourably of, or otherwise would help them to address the continuing legal obligations that result if the site does, in fact, contain European protected species, such as great crested newts.”

Mr Isted said the planning department remained available to assist the company in framing revised proposals.

He added: “Wrexham Industrial Estate is a key employment site, but also contains valuable protected species and trees.

“The council, and for that matter the company, cannot ignore its legal obligations to protect European protected species such as the great crested newt.

“But the committee was prepared to give the company time to speak to its own consultants to try to resolve the matter before taking a decision.”

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