Boris Johnson vows to protect newts threatening plans for pool at his country manor

Ex-prime minister promises to build little ‘motels’ for amphibians if he has to

Jane Dalton
Friday 04 August 2023 21:29 BST
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to protect newts in his garden – even though they could stop him from building a new swimming pool at his country manor.

The ex-prime minister has even promised to build “little newt motels” for the amphibians if necessary.

After Mr Johnson sought permission in June for the new pool at his Oxfordshire country manor, an ecologist advised planners to reject the plans because they could threaten local populations of great crested newts.

In 2020, while still in No 10, he blamed “newt-counting” red tape in the planning system for delays in housebuilding.

But now, rather than fighting the objection, Mr Johnson has taken the ecologist’s warning to heart, saying: “Protect these animals we must, or posterity will not ­forgive us.”

“Today, in the UK, we British have done more than virtually any other human population to exterminate other members of the animal ­kingdom and sterilise our landscape,” he wrote in his latest Daily Mail column.

The former Tory leader, who was forced to quit No 10 after an inquiry into the Partygate lockdown scandal concluded he had misled Parliament, surprised many while in office with a raft of eco-friendly policies.

It was under him that the government produced an ambitious animal-welfare action plan – dropped by Rishi Sunak.

Mr Johnson wanted the new pool for his Grade II-listed Brightwell Manor.

Local government ecologist Edward Church last month warned of “a reasonable likelihood” that great crested newts could be affected by the plan.

Great crested newts (Getty Images)
Mr Johnson and a lizard (Getty Images)

However, Mr Johnson wrote: “If it turns out that our garden is so honoured and so fortunate as to be the home of some newts – great crested, ­palmate, whatever – I want you to know that I will do whatever it takes to protect them.

“If we have to build little newt motels to house them in their trips past the swimming pool, then we will…

“We will excavate new ponds in which they can breed.”

He said if necessary he would devote the entire swimming pool to newts, and “insofar as I dig a pool, it will be a newt pool and not a pool for human beings”.

The UK had fewer species of amphibians and reptiles than any other country in Europe, he said.

“If I am lucky enough to share my garden or even my ­swimming pool with newts, I will count myself even more blessed than I already am,” he added.

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