GO-AHEAD has been given to development of a wetland sanctuary in Selkirk to protect endangered amphibian species.

The project aims to develop and restore habitats at two unique sites to protect the great crested newt (GCN).

The locations are around the boardwalk of the Haining Loch and across into the Deer Park marshy area.

A planning application, submitted to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) by Newtown St Boswells-based Bright Green Nature, to create the habitats has now been rubber-stamped.

It is anticipated the project will form the first phase of an exciting new programme to preserve the biodiversity of both sites, with great opportunities for visitor engagement.

In his report approving the application Alla Hassan, SBC assistant planning officer, says: “The proposal involves digging three ponds with varying maximum depths of approximately 600mm, 800mm and 1000mm.

“Due to the nature of the proposals, there are considered to be no adverse visual impacts to the immediate vicinity, the historic gardens and designed landscape area and wider special landscape area.

“Notwithstanding this, it is considered necessary to attach a condition requesting further section details of the pond showing existing and proposed level changes.”

A report with the application says: “There are seven amphibian species native to the UK: Palmate newt, great crested newt, smooth newt, pool frog, common frog, natterjack toad and common toad.

“Almost one third of Great Britain’s amphibian and reptile species are threatened with risk of extinction. Great crested newts are European Protected Species; the Scottish Borders are one of the few places they can be found in greater numbers.

“It is illegal to kill, injure or capture GCNs, to damage their eggs or their habitat. A licence is needed to work in areas where it is suspected GCNs are present. GCNs breed in small to medium-sized freshwater ponds, but there are few of these habitats left. There have been a number of sightings of GCNs in this area over the past few years.”

The work would involve digging a small number of natural ponds across both sites to maximise the newts habitat and protect them against drought.

The project is being developed in conjunction with the Haining Charitable Trust, Froglife and community feedback.

As part of the application process, the partners wish to seek opinions and feedback from local organisations and community members on the proposal.

Feedback can be sent directly to Bright Green Nature at karen@brightgreennature.org or via the contact form at www.brightgreennature.org