In a joint operation by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Gwent Police, a man from the Vale of Glamorgan has been successfully prosecuted for destroying a valuable wildlife habitat that was home to the critically endangered Great Crested Newts.
After pleading guilty in court, the Magistrates ordered Mr Van Praag to pay £1,905 in fines, costs and compensation amounting to £700 to The Freshwater Habitats Trust
Stephen Van Praag from Summerhouse Bay, Llantwit Major, appeared before Cardiff Magistrates on Friday 25th August 2023 charged with breeching the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) at the former Summerhouse Bay Holiday Park, Boverton, Llantwit Major on the Heritage Coast in the Vale of Glamorgan.
In February 2023, Mr Van Praag drained the pool housing one of the largest colonies of Great Crested Newts in South Wales without the relevant species licencing from NRW or planning permission from the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Mr Van Praag had applied for outlying planning permission to build 20 holiday chalets on the site however had ignored the advice of his ecologist and drained the pool resulting in the loss of a full years’ breeding cycle of this critically endangered amphibian.
The area is known to be a significant breeding site for a number of European protected species, including slow worms and Great Crested Newts as well as containing a mix of rare flora and fauna.
Mr Van Praag was in possession of a detailed ecological survey report that had been commissioned recently as part of his development ambition for the site which spans over 2.3 Hectares but chose to ignore the advice contained within the report.
PC Mark Powell on secondment with Natural Resources Wales Industry Regulation team said:
“Officers from Natural Resources Wales are successfully working with police forces across Wales’ Local Authority Biodiversity Teams and the National Wildlife Crime Unit to investigate and prosecute those responsible for committing wildlife and rural crime offences. Partnership working has never been so productive.
“It’s so important to preserve already dwindling protected native species such as Great Crested Newts. This case is most disturbing due to the fact that the Newts have lost an entire year of their breeding cycle which will have a profound effect on their number at this important site. The owners of this site will now be forced to cooperate with the Species Team at Natural Resources Wales to establish regular monitoring of the Newts and will also have to fulfil obligations at their own cost in relation to the Environmental Damage Regulations to ensure that any future planning applications at Summerhouse Bay will have to include mitigation for the Newts. We welcome the sentence, which I believe will go a long way to deter others from committing future offences.”
To report an environmental incident, please contact NRW’s Incident communication line open 24/7, on 0300 065 3000.
To report an environmental crime please call 101.
In an emergency, always dial 999