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Newt halts work on Kier’s £14m Durham police HQ

Discovery of protected great crested newt has already set back Kier’s Durham police HQ by three months at an estimated cost of £200,000 to the force.

Kier has been stopped from building a £14 million Durham Police headquarters job after a protected great crested newt was spotted near the site.

Construction has been unable to take place at Aykley Heads since the “evidence” of the species was discovered in October.

Durham police said the new, cost-efficient building is set to save them £2,000 per day, which means the delays have already cost them around £200,000.

The completion date has already been set back from spring to summer, a spokesperson said.

Natural England said it hoped to allow work to continue soon.

Assistant Chief Officer Gary Ridley said: “The quicker we start building the quicker we save money but unfortunately we are in the hands of a statutory agency.

“We are sitting here with a scheme, ready to go and are waiting for a licence to be granted so we can mobilise the contractor to start the work.”

Planning permission was granted for the new headquarters in June and was scheduled to be completed by spring 2014.

As part of the planning process an ecology study was carried out which found “evidence of the presence of newts”. An application outlining mitigation measures has been with Natural England since 17 December.

Mr Ridley said the current HQ costs the force around £1.6 million annually and the new smaller HQ will save around £750,000 per year.

The force said building work will most probably start six to seven weeks after the licence has been issued.

The police said it is hoping the scheme will still be on track to open in the summer of 2014.

A Natural England spokesman said: “We are treating this case as the highest priority.”

A Kier spokesperson said: “We have come across situations like this on a number of jobs.

“It’s something we deal with as part of the project management process and we always work closely with our clients and the appropriate agencies to ensure that we abide by the relevant legislation, while keeping the project running as smoothly as possible.”

CN exclusively revealed in September that Kier were in line for the job ahead of Bam Construct, Graham, Henry Brothers, Kier, Miller and Morgan Sindall to the deal.

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