Newt check to be carried out around Ed Sheeran’s estate
A wildlife group fears nearby ponds are a breeding site for great crested newts.
Pop star Ed Sheeran has commissioned experts to check for great crested newts around his estate in East Anglia where he plans to build a private chapel.
The 27-year-old singer-songwriter, who announced his engagement to long-time girlfriend Cherry Seaborn in January, has submitted a planning application for the Saxon-style structure to Suffolk Coastal District Council.
But a string of concerns have been raised, including from Suffolk Wildlife Trust which said there were records of great crested newts in the area in 2015 and it is possible that ponds within the site boundaries "could be breeding sites for this species".
Great crested newts, Britain's largest newt species, have declined over recent years and are now legally protected.
It is illegal to disturb the animals or obstruct access to areas where they live and breed, with the protected area extending up to 500m from their breeding ponds, the wildlife trust said.
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."
These could include bat boxes, swift nesting boxes and native planting, he said.
"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," he added.
Mr Smith also addressed concerns from people who claim the planned chapel would be unsightly and could draw celebrity-spotters to the area.
Responding to one objector who "contends that the chapel will attract attention from the public and media", Mr Smith said it would be sited on private land 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."
He said claims that the chapel would be "a blot on the landscape, destroying views" were not based on facts and "discredit the high-quality architecture".
He added that it is common for Suffolk churches to be located on the edge of or outside settlements.
"Often, but not entirely because of the 14th century post-plague relocations of villages, this relationship is strongly characteristic of the area," he said.
"It is also the case that private chapels are generally sited away from their host houses for the purpose of providing a visible feature in the landscape encouraging the contemplation of the viewer."
The proposed flint chapel would hold a congregation of around 24.
The application states there is a need for the chapel 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".
A wedding licence would be needed if Sheeran planned to marry there.
An expected decision date on the planning application is not available, the council's website said.