A dad’s plans to transform his garden for his young son have been put on hold – after 35 newts were found living in his pond.
Wildlife experts say they have to be sure none of the amphibians are of the rarest variety before they can allow any work to go ahead.
Mohammed Sheikh, 36, wants to fill in the small pond at his home in Uppingham Road, in Leicester, to make it a safer area but he has been asked to wait until September – when the newt breeding season ends.
By then, wildlife experts will have had time to make sure there are no protected great crested newts living in the garden. The problem came to light when Mr Sheikh’s friend, a landscape gardener, spotted the creatures when he was asked to redesign the plot.
He warned Mr Sheikh that there could be great crested newts living in the pond and asked him to call in the experts.
He said: “I didn’t think anything of it until I read in the Leicester Mercury that the Earl Shilton bypass may have to be delayed after that variety of newts was found.
“I bought the house in October and at the moment I’m doing a renovation of the property.
“I have a four-year-old son and I wanted to fill in the pond and make it a nice area for him to play in.”
He contacted Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and a conservation officer did a survey which found 35 smooth newts.
Mr Sheikh said: “We have had neighbours who say they have seen great crested newts in their gardens so there is a possibility that they are in the area.”
Neill Talbot, a senior conservation officer with Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, said it was unusual to find so many newts in a small garden pond. He said: “It took about half-an-hour to identify all the animals as the common variety, but I will do another survey in about three weeks.
“It is quite rare for great crested newts to be found in Leicester and it may have been the case that they were passing through.
“If they are found, then they can be relocated, but that requires a licence from Natural England.”
Great crested newts are 15cm long and have wart-like markings across their bodies. They also have a large crest on their heads and a bright orange underbelly. The common or smooth newts are about half the size and, as their name suggests, have a smoother body.
Mr Talbot said: “Mr Sheikh can landscape the garden but we would prefer if he waited until September when the newt breeding season ends. Newts gather in ponds in the spring and summer to breed, then leave.”
In February, the Leicester Mercury revealed the discovery of great crested newts had hindered the progress of the Earl Shilton bypass and could send the cost of the project soaring.