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Second Green Apple award as Stansted Airport creates des res for newts



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A protected species has seized the initiative and is settling into a new home at Stansted Airport this week.

Just over a year ago, environment and energy manager Martin Churley began transforming an area of scrubland into a des res for rare amphibians.

The habitat for great crested newts was intended as a standby, should expansion plans require their relocation, but now Essex Wildlife Trust has confirmed their presence and a colony is getting comfy in the compound.

Stansted Airport Perimeter, Re visiting Newt reserve to see progress. l-r: Sam Lomax (Environment Compliance Officer) and Martin Churley (Environment and Energy Manager) on the reserve. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (16212574)
Stansted Airport Perimeter, Re visiting Newt reserve to see progress. l-r: Sam Lomax (Environment Compliance Officer) and Martin Churley (Environment and Energy Manager) on the reserve. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (16212574)

Britain's largest newts, at up to 6in (15cm) long, favour large ponds, with abundant plant life and no fish, for breeding and spend their winters sheltering under rocks, in compost heaps or buried in the mud.

The sanctuary at Stansted ticks all those boxes and represents another success in Martin's mission to make the airport as environmentally friendly as possible.

His hard work has just been recognised by The Green Organisation, with notification that his efforts have earned a second Green Apple Award for environmental best practice. He will receive his latest accolade at a ceremony in November, a year after the first. Then he picked up 'gold' for a scheme which began as a trial in 2017, 'recycling' non-perishable food, drink and toiletries.

Stansted Airport. Environmental improvements being made at the airport. Netted ponds are being created on the North side of the site as a wildlife haven. Environment mManager Martin Churley by one of the new ponds. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (16212687)
Stansted Airport. Environmental improvements being made at the airport. Netted ponds are being created on the North side of the site as a wildlife haven. Environment mManager Martin Churley by one of the new ponds. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (16212687)

The items, surrendered by passengers after falling foul of hand luggage security restrictions, are given to food banks across Uttlesford and East Hertfordshire.

With two apple awards now in the bag, Martin aims to earn a treeful for the airport. He has also won industry plaudits for his efforts to reduce single-use plastic by distributing thousands of reusable coffee cups and water bottles to staff and the next step is working with refill.org.uk to encourage passengers not to bin their empty bottles in the terminal but re-use them and take advantage of refill facilities at Stansted's restaurants and water fountains.

He said: I personally want to see Stansted Airport being a catalyst for the change in culture on this."

As well as helping humans live more sustainably, he is on a mission to boost biodiversity and the new habitat near Burton End is one of 21 areas on the airport getting special attention from his team and partners like FedEx with a far-reaching 15-year plan which incudes bat boxes and insect sanctuaries.

Stansted Airport Perimeter, Re visiting Newt reserve to see progress. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (16212588)
Stansted Airport Perimeter, Re visiting Newt reserve to see progress. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (16212588)

The three new ponds, two of which drain naturally, have been dug with the optimum gradient for the newts to scramble up and down safely and surrounded by specialist planting like sneezewort, wild angelica, marsh marigold, water figwort and skullcap.

Martin's aim is zero net loss of species as the airport grows and said: "We created this to be able to relocate newts if we had to, but now we've had the great news that they are already here."

Elsewhere silver ash trees are now taking root on the airport as part of a programme which has seen Martin distribute 3,600 specimens - more than 1,000 of which he potted himself over 120 hours - to airport staff and community organisations for planting elsewhere too. Around 600 went to a farm near Elsenham to create a new wood.

Great-crested newt, Triturus cristatus, single male. (16212620)
Great-crested newt, Triturus cristatus, single male. (16212620)

He joked: "That was fun - I was out in my garage in the cold and the wet and dark, planting up trees. After the first 600, I thought 'whose idea was this'?"

This hands-on approach is typical of Martin's attitude to his job, which he describes as being "the airport's environmental conscience" and he plans to extend the tree donation programme to include different species.

He said: "Why do we do all of this? Not because we have to but because it's the right thing to do."



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