Ed Sheeran launches hunt for great crested newts

Ed Sheeran's plans to build a private chapel on his estate have been put on hold so that a search for great crested newts can take place.

The singer-songwriter, 27, has been forced to commission experts to check for the protected amphibians on his land in East Anglia before continuing with the construction.

Sheeran, who announced his engagement to long-term girlfriend Cherry Seaborn in January, has submitted a planning application for a Saxon-style chapel structure to Suffolk Coastal District Council.

A string of concerns have been raised, including from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust - which says there were records of great crested newts in the area in 2015.

Ponds within the site boundaries "could be breeding sites for this species", the trust says.

The great crested newt - also known as the northern crested newt or warty newt - is found across Europe and parts of Asia, and is Britain's largest newt species.

They have declined in Europe due to loss of habitat in recent years and are now legally protected.

It is an offence to intentionally kill or injure a great crested newt as well as disturb them or obstruct access to areas where they live and breed.

Paul Smith, of Apex Planning Consultants, said: "The applicant has responded promptly to this matter and has also commissioned an appropriate survey that will identify the presence of great crested newts or otherwise, propose mitigation measures as appropriate and recommend measures to enhance biodiversity.

"We were not aware of the historical presence of great crested newts nearby and certainly believe that none exist in the pond nearby to the application site."

Mr Smith also addressed concerns that the planned chapel could attract unwanted media attention to the area, saying it would be positioned approximately 230m from the road.

"Therefore we do not agree that at such distance from public land and views it will generate the attention he (the objector) purports," he wrote.

"Indeed, his argument somewhat demonstrates why the applicant requires a private chapel for private non-denominational contemplation."

Sheeran's proposed flint chapel would hold a congregation of about 24.

The application states that the chapel is needed as "it is every person's right to be able to have a place of retreat for contemplation and prayer, for religious observance, celebration of key life and family milestones, marriages, christenings and so forth".

If the singer plans to marry there, a wedding licence would be needed.

A decision date on the planning application is not available, the council's website says.

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