Ed Sheeran calls in newt experts over chapel plans

Ed Sheeran Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ed Sheeran announced his engagement to girlfriend Cherry Seaborn in January

Ed Sheeran has called in experts to check whether great crested newts could scupper his plans to build a private chapel on his Suffolk estate.

Sheeran, who announced his engagement in January, has a planning application for the Saxon-style structure with Suffolk Coastal District Council.

But objections to the plans include concerns about the wider area's great crested newt population.

The species has declined in recent years and are now legally protected.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust said there were records of great crested newts in the area in 2015 and it was possible that ponds within the site boundaries "could be breeding sites for this species".

Image caption The great crested newt is found throughout Europe and is a protected species in the United Kingdom

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 (1,640ft) 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."

"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.

Image copyright Donald Insall Associates
Image caption The proposed chapel would be built in a Saxon style, according to the plans

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 (750ft) from the road.

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".

Sheeran's application was lodged after the 27-year-old announced his engagement to long-time girlfriend Cherry Seaborn.

The proposed flint chapel would hold a congregation of about 24.

A wedding licence would be needed if Sheeran wanted to marry there.

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