OXFORD City Council has said another search for great crested newts will be carried out near a site earmarked for new homes after a local man said he saw some of the creatures there.

A man from Blackbird Leys said he spotted the protected newts in the pond at Spindleberry Park, just a stone's throw from a field off Knights Road where the council and Catalyst Housing are planning to build 80 homes.

Read also: Locals outrage by Tiny Forests

The housing development is part of the Blackbird Leys £100 million regeneration plan, but great crested newts (GCN) are a protected species according to the Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

The council said Catalyst had already undertaken ‘extensive work’ to assess the wildlife and ecology in the area and found no evidence of great crested newts.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, said: “GCN can travel for a maximum 500 metres on land and the only pond within this distance of the Knights Road site is the artificial pond in Spindleberry Park.

“Assessment of this pond returned a 'poor' suitability for GCN. This is due to the lack of other nearby ponds, unsuitable terrestrial habitat and a large population of water birds that would be predators on newts, larvae and eggs. Northfield Brook is not suitable for breeding GCN."

Read here: Drone footage shows extent of flooding in Oxfordshire

The council also added that the GCN hibernation period is from November to February, meaning it would be unlikely that they would have been spotted in recent weeks.

However, it also said that Catalyst’s team of ecologists would carry out an environmental DNA survey in the springtime, once the GCN hibernation season had ended.

Mr Hollingsworth added: "If GCN are found in Spindleberry Park a range of mitigation options are available under the council’s NatureSpace district licence.

"This will require a further discussion with the council’s ecologist to ensure that any GCN population is conserved without delaying development of the Knights Road site.”