Force of nature as lone newt blocks Durham's new £14m police HQ

A great crested newt similar to the one holding up the police HQ

EARLY START: Retiring Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, left, and the chairman of Durham Police Authority, Peter Thompson, cut a sod of turf on the site of the new police HQ in October

First published in News
Last updated
Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Reporter (Durham)

CONSTRUCTION of a new state-of-the-art £14m police headquarters has been halted – by the discovery of a single newt hundreds of yards off site.

Outgoing Durham Police chief constable Jon Stoddart cut the first sod on the force’s long-awaited new HQ in Durham City last October.

But, since then, no work has been done on the Aykley Heads site.

The Northern Echo can now reveal that the delay is due to a single Great Crested newt having been found some distance away, near the East Coast railway line.

Frustrated police chiefs say every day of delay is costing the cash-strapped force £2,000 – meaning the hitch has already cost up to £250,000.

The force offered to build log pile “newt houses” on the site, in case the newt migrated while construction was taking place, but officials from Natural England, the guardian of England’s natural environment, demanded more be done.

It is understood that the agency did not feel the police’s plans were robust enough.

The force then returned with an improved offer in mid-December but, nearly two months on and well beyond a deadline of January 17, they are still waiting for NE’s response.

Temporary Chief Constable Mike Barton said: “We are an organisation that enforces the law so it’s obvious that we’ve got to follow the law as well. We’re comfortable with that.

“But there’s a slight degree of frustration. I want to get into the new headquarters, so we can start making the savings from having a much smaller building.”

The current 1960s-built HQ costs £1.6m a year to maintain, needs £4.7m of repairs and chiefs say it is no longer fit for purpose. Its successor will be £2,000-a-day cheaper to run, saving around £750,000 a year.

The newt was found well beyond the proposed headquarters site. However, its discovery triggered the imposition of a 500m exclusion zone, which reaches onto the plot.

Assistant Chief Officer Gary Ridley said: “We’re trying our best to get this resolved as quickly as possible but unfortunately we’re in the hands of a statutory agency.

“We’re sitting here with a scheme that’s ready to go.”

When contacted by The Northern Echo, a Natural England spokesman issued the following statement: “We are treating this case as the highest priority.

“We are working flat-out to process the licence application and hope to complete this in the next few days.”

The quango has suffered major funding cuts in recent years, leaving officials extremely overworked.

It has been reported the Government is considering going one step further and merging it with the Environment Agency, under its “bonfire of the quangos”.

Durham Police gained planning permission for the new HQ last June. The force plans to demolish its current base, just across the road, to make way for around 230 homes.

Comments (26)

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3:23am Fri 8 Feb 13

Voice-of-reality says...

Quite marvellous.
There is no need to move Headquarters. there is a simple way to reduce costs inhe present building as it is too big.
Use only the first two floors, switch off the lights and the heating to the rest and allow FOURTEEN MILLION to pay the bills for at least the next few years . the new property may cost 2,000 less per day to run but there are an awful lot of £2,000 in 14 million before the new building 'makes a profit'.
Quite marvellous. There is no need to move Headquarters. there is a simple way to reduce costs inhe present building as it is too big. Use only the first two floors, switch off the lights and the heating to the rest and allow FOURTEEN MILLION to pay the bills for at least the next few years . the new property may cost 2,000 less per day to run but there are an awful lot of £2,000 in 14 million before the new building 'makes a profit'. Voice-of-reality
  • Score: 12

3:25am Fri 8 Feb 13

Voice-of-reality says...

Even better idea - as the public are against the Mout Oswald development and the university needs more space and the police less....... University turns old police HQ into student rooms and the police take a smaller building in the form of old shire hall (also next to the police station if you walk round theback). Oh the simple economies of scale - but why should public bodies not waste money - they care not - its not their money
Even better idea - as the public are against the Mout Oswald development and the university needs more space and the police less....... University turns old police HQ into student rooms and the police take a smaller building in the form of old shire hall (also next to the police station if you walk round theback). Oh the simple economies of scale - but why should public bodies not waste money - they care not - its not their money Voice-of-reality
  • Score: 13

7:36am Fri 8 Feb 13

cupid stunt says...

why not just kill the newt
why not just kill the newt cupid stunt
  • Score: 1

7:46am Fri 8 Feb 13

greenfinger says...

so if i go and find a newt of the same kind and put it on mount oswald golf golf it'll stop the entire development?
so if i go and find a newt of the same kind and put it on mount oswald golf golf it'll stop the entire development? greenfinger
  • Score: 14

8:18am Fri 8 Feb 13

bishop1 says...

greenfinger wrote:
so if i go and find a newt of the same kind and put it on mount oswald golf golf it'll stop the entire development?
pretty much :)
[quote][p][bold]greenfinger[/bold] wrote: so if i go and find a newt of the same kind and put it on mount oswald golf golf it'll stop the entire development?[/p][/quote]pretty much :) bishop1
  • Score: 6

11:04am Fri 8 Feb 13

Spy Boy says...

Here's a great way to stop any development in the future. Go and find a newt and plonk it in a small pond near the contested development. We could try it here on the Blackwell Golf Club site where they are looking at building executive homes. They could also try it over in Cumbria where they want to bury nuclear waste. Mind you, the newt would be a metre long with 3 eyes and 12 legs over there.
Here's a great way to stop any development in the future. Go and find a newt and plonk it in a small pond near the contested development. We could try it here on the Blackwell Golf Club site where they are looking at building executive homes. They could also try it over in Cumbria where they want to bury nuclear waste. Mind you, the newt would be a metre long with 3 eyes and 12 legs over there. Spy Boy
  • Score: 5

11:06am Fri 8 Feb 13

Spy Boy says...

Some good ideas over recycling of old buildings here. Will anyone listen ? Doubt it. They probably have other benefits in mind.
Some good ideas over recycling of old buildings here. Will anyone listen ? Doubt it. They probably have other benefits in mind. Spy Boy
  • Score: 5

11:23am Fri 8 Feb 13

always right says...

Great stuff. I can see these newts appearing anywhere now where there is an opposed site. Yes,i can see them newts becoming very popular indeed.
Great stuff. I can see these newts appearing anywhere now where there is an opposed site. Yes,i can see them newts becoming very popular indeed. always right
  • Score: 5

11:26am Fri 8 Feb 13

always right says...

PS,,anyone want to buy some newts ?. Going cheap at £2000 each !. Saves a lot of chew in the long run.
PS,,anyone want to buy some newts ?. Going cheap at £2000 each !. Saves a lot of chew in the long run. always right
  • Score: 3

11:26am Fri 8 Feb 13

always right says...

PS,,anyone want to buy some newts ?. Going cheap at £2000 each !. Saves a lot of chew in the long run.
PS,,anyone want to buy some newts ?. Going cheap at £2000 each !. Saves a lot of chew in the long run. always right
  • Score: 2

12:29pm Fri 8 Feb 13

loan_star says...

These newts seem to be attracted to where public sector money is being used! Surely not just a good excuse just to bump the price up is it?
These newts seem to be attracted to where public sector money is being used! Surely not just a good excuse just to bump the price up is it? loan_star
  • Score: 3

12:34pm Fri 8 Feb 13

matt3001 says...

how can you just kill the newt it is a protected species by killing or touching or moving you face a massive fine if not imprisonment
how can you just kill the newt it is a protected species by killing or touching or moving you face a massive fine if not imprisonment matt3001
  • Score: -2

12:50pm Fri 8 Feb 13

cromwell1599 says...

NEWT POWER !!!!
NEWT POWER !!!! cromwell1599
  • Score: 2

1:22pm Fri 8 Feb 13

battboy77 says...

matt3001 wrote:
how can you just kill the newt it is a protected species by killing or touching or moving you face a massive fine if not imprisonment
matt3001.......Get a grip of yourself, cupid stunt was only kidding...there there its alright now shhhhh go to sleep!!!!
[quote][p][bold]matt3001[/bold] wrote: how can you just kill the newt it is a protected species by killing or touching or moving you face a massive fine if not imprisonment[/p][/quote]matt3001.......Get a grip of yourself, cupid stunt was only kidding...there there its alright now shhhhh go to sleep!!!! battboy77
  • Score: 5

1:27pm Fri 8 Feb 13

Five 0 says...

Could the builders who are being paid £2000 a day to wait, have put the newts there so they earn money for doing nothing?

Now there's a thought!
Could the builders who are being paid £2000 a day to wait, have put the newts there so they earn money for doing nothing? Now there's a thought! Five 0
  • Score: -1

2:12pm Fri 8 Feb 13

Captain Hindsight says...

"Assistant Chief Officer Gary Ridley said: “We’re trying our best to get this resolved as quickly as possible but unfortunately we’re in the hands of a statutory agency."

You mean like the Police?

“We’re sitting here with a scheme that’s ready to go.”

Except you can't...because of the law!! This aggressive and bombastic mini-statement says a lot about the attitude that prevails here. DC has enjoyed vast estates far beyond it's needs for years, with empty sports facilities that should have been open to Durham families and children for years. They could redevelop on the huge existing site but the cash register is ringing, and they would rather obliterate another piece of open space which also encroaches on areas that contain deer and woodpeckers.

The duties of Natural England should not be dismissed because they are a quango, someone would have to do it
"Assistant Chief Officer Gary Ridley said: “We’re trying our best to get this resolved as quickly as possible but unfortunately we’re in the hands of a statutory agency." You mean like the Police? “We’re sitting here with a scheme that’s ready to go.” Except you can't...because of the law!! This aggressive and bombastic mini-statement says a lot about the attitude that prevails here. DC has enjoyed vast estates far beyond it's needs for years, with empty sports facilities that should have been open to Durham families and children for years. They could redevelop on the huge existing site but the cash register is ringing, and they would rather obliterate another piece of open space which also encroaches on areas that contain deer and woodpeckers. The duties of Natural England should not be dismissed because they are a quango, someone would have to do it Captain Hindsight
  • Score: 1

2:19pm Fri 8 Feb 13

battboy77 says...

This whole things is ridiculous.....i kid you not i might go there and start squashing Newts with my size 9 wellies.......if i can actually find one!!!
What an absoloute pile on red tape Tosh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This whole things is ridiculous.....i kid you not i might go there and start squashing Newts with my size 9 wellies.......if i can actually find one!!! What an absoloute pile on red tape Tosh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! battboy77
  • Score: 3

3:25pm Fri 8 Feb 13

Loopy74 says...

There have been newts there for a while I saw one early last year and in answer to one poster the building is being built on the existing site, where the old Sports Centre was knocked down, as far as I'm aware.

It is ridiculous though that these delays are taking place and costing yet more money when DC are apparently struggling to balance the books, it'll as always cost the tax payers more money or mean more people lose their jobs
There have been newts there for a while I saw one early last year and in answer to one poster the building is being built on the existing site, where the old Sports Centre was knocked down, as far as I'm aware. It is ridiculous though that these delays are taking place and costing yet more money when DC are apparently struggling to balance the books, it'll as always cost the tax payers more money or mean more people lose their jobs Loopy74
  • Score: 0

3:35pm Fri 8 Feb 13

the-big-yin says...

cromwell1599 wrote:
NEWT POWER !!!!
" NEWT CLEAR " POWER
[quote][p][bold]cromwell1599[/bold] wrote: NEWT POWER !!!![/p][/quote]" NEWT CLEAR " POWER the-big-yin
  • Score: 4

11:15pm Fri 8 Feb 13

spragger says...

Its an omen! Save the taxpayers money.

Or .. Call for RedKen Livingstone. . .
Its an omen! Save the taxpayers money. Or .. Call for RedKen Livingstone. . . spragger
  • Score: 3

2:28pm Sat 9 Feb 13

Voice-of-reality says...

Is anyone else interested in getting 'Save the Durham Newt' t-shirts printed?
Is anyone else interested in getting 'Save the Durham Newt' t-shirts printed? Voice-of-reality
  • Score: -1

4:55pm Sat 9 Feb 13

Lifetime Townie says...

Was it planted to create delay to the project or was it in it's usual habitat?
Pity it can't speak English!
Was it planted to create delay to the project or was it in it's usual habitat? Pity it can't speak English! Lifetime Townie
  • Score: 0

8:04am Sun 10 Feb 13

greenfinger says...

Lifetime Townie wrote:
Was it planted to create delay to the project or was it in it's usual habitat?
Pity it can't speak English!
typical uk resident then!
[quote][p][bold]Lifetime Townie[/bold] wrote: Was it planted to create delay to the project or was it in it's usual habitat? Pity it can't speak English![/p][/quote]typical uk resident then! greenfinger
  • Score: 1

1:24pm Tue 12 Feb 13

IanfromCrook says...

Voice-of-reality wrote:
Even better idea - as the public are against the Mout Oswald development and the university needs more space and the police less....... University turns old police HQ into student rooms and the police take a smaller building in the form of old shire hall (also next to the police station if you walk round theback). Oh the simple economies of scale - but why should public bodies not waste money - they care not - its not their money
totally agree with this statement
[quote][p][bold]Voice-of-reality[/bold] wrote: Even better idea - as the public are against the Mout Oswald development and the university needs more space and the police less....... University turns old police HQ into student rooms and the police take a smaller building in the form of old shire hall (also next to the police station if you walk round theback). Oh the simple economies of scale - but why should public bodies not waste money - they care not - its not their money[/p][/quote]totally agree with this statement IanfromCrook
  • Score: 0

1:26pm Tue 12 Feb 13

IanfromCrook says...

greenfinger wrote:
so if i go and find a newt of the same kind and put it on mount oswald golf golf it'll stop the entire development?
Good luck, , , , , ,Durham's Newt-on bomb.
[quote][p][bold]greenfinger[/bold] wrote: so if i go and find a newt of the same kind and put it on mount oswald golf golf it'll stop the entire development?[/p][/quote]Good luck, , , , , ,Durham's Newt-on bomb. IanfromCrook
  • Score: 0

4:24pm Tue 12 Feb 13

oxgene says...

greenfinger wrote:
Lifetime Townie wrote:
Was it planted to create delay to the project or was it in it's usual habitat?
Pity it can't speak English!
typical uk resident then!
Brilliant!!.........
[quote][p][bold]greenfinger[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Lifetime Townie[/bold] wrote: Was it planted to create delay to the project or was it in it's usual habitat? Pity it can't speak English![/p][/quote]typical uk resident then![/p][/quote]Brilliant!!......... oxgene
  • Score: 0

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