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Boris Johnson vows to create ‘Newtopia’ for amphibians threatening his swimming pool plans | Politics News

Boris Johnson has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to protect newts that have threatened his plans to build an outdoor swimming pool at his Oxfordshire country manor.

The former prime minister promised to build a “Newtopia”, consisting of “newt motels”, for the amphibians who have taken residence at the Grade II-listed Brightwell Manor he shares with his wife Carrie and their three young children.

Mr Johnson – who ironically once blamed “newt counting” for holding up “the productivity and the prosperity of this country” – applied to install the 11-metre by four-metre outdoor feature at his manor in June.

But the process may be delayed after the local countryside officer warned of the risk to great crested newts – which thrive in the village and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In his latest Daily Mail column, Mr Johnson wrote: “If it turns out that our garden is so honoured and so fortunate as to be the home of some newts – great crested, ­palmate, whatever – I want you to know that I will do whatever it takes to protect them.

“If we have to build little newt motels to house them in their trips past the swimming pool, then we will. If we have to create whole newt-friendly bunds to stop them falling in, we will.

“We will excavate new ponds in which they can breed. We will make a Newtopia!”

Former  Prime Minister Boris Johnson runs near his home in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Oxfordshire

Johnson’s proposed pool in ‘highest risk’ area

The South and Vale countryside officer last month filed a holding objection to Mr Johnson’s planned pool, arguing that the newts could be “impacted by the proposed development”.

In his report, which stated that planning permission should not “currently” be granted, local government ecologist Edward Church wrote: “There are known populations of great crested newts… in the east of the village.

“Mapping shows that there is a pond onsite and a moat immediately adjacent to the southern boundary, both well within 250 metres of the position of the proposed pool.

“The proposed development falls within the red zone of highest risk to GCN [great crested newts].”

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Mr Johnson said that according to one of the ­ecology reports he has received – which he described as “amazingly expensive but worth every penny” – “there are ­certainly bodies of water nearby that could be hospitable to newts”.

“There is a chance that these creatures could be interrupted in their peregrinations, when they leave their watery lairs, by an unexpected new hole in the lawn,” he said.

“I am told that something that could be the spoor of the newt has been found, but we await DNA testing from the lab – and so, inevitably, I am warned that there may be delays, and there may be costs.”

The Wildlife Trust says the great crested newt, which is protected under UK and European wildlife law, is the biggest of the UK’s newt species, measuring up to 17cm.

The so-called “warty newt” is almost black with spotted flanks and an orange belly, with the charity comparing it to a mini-dinosaur.

Newt numbers are in decline, with habitat loss cited as their biggest threat.

Ipswich: Spa complex engulfed by huge blaze which started near swimming pool | UK News

An investigation has been launched after a huge blaze engulfed a spa in Ipswich in the early hours of Friday morning.

A total of 17 fire engines were called to tackle a fire at the Riverhills Health Club & Spa in Bramford at around 12.20am.

Dramatic pictures show flames ripping through the building and destroying the roof as plumes of smoke poured into the sky.

Two firefighters were pictured standing close to a hot tub as they battled to extinguish the blaze.

A number of nearby roads were closed as motorists were warned to avoid the area.

The roads have now reopened but crews remain on the scene, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said.

Providing an update, incident commander, group manager Sally Hammond said: “We were called to a serious fire at Riverhills Spa at about 12.20am last night.

“Crews were here very quickly and established that there was a very serious fire that had occurred in the swimming pool area of the building.

“The crews worked really hard and really quickly in order to save the main part of the building, which we did.

“In the morning there will be a full and thorough investigation as to the cause of this fire.”

Police and ambulance services were also dispatched to the scene.

Firefighters were called to the scene in the early hours of Friday morning Pic: Twitter / Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service
Firefighters were called to the scene in the early hours of Friday morning Pic: Twitter / Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service

The spa has posted an announcement on Facebook that it will be closed on Friday.

It said: “You may have already seen on local news that very sadly there has been a large fire at the club overnight.

“As a result Riverhills will be closed today (Friday 23 June) to all members and guests while we gain access to the building and assess the damage.

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“We will of course update you once we have further information but please understand that we currently have no phone systems or internet access on site.

“We are extremely grateful to the work of Suffolk Fire and Rescue and the other emergency teams that responded to this incident and brought the fire under control.”

The spa also thanked customers for their understanding and said it would provide a further update as soon as possible.

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