THE developers behind a prestige holiday village on the outskirts of Filey have been fined a record amount for intentionally damaging the habitat of a protected species.
Hessle-based Essential Vivendi Construction Ltd pleaded guilty to intentionally and recklessly damaging or destroying the shelter of great crested newts on the site of the former Butlins holiday camp, now called The Bay.
A trial had been scheduled for next month, but the long-running legal battle was brought to a conclusion at Scarborough Magistrates' Court on Friday when the company entered a guilty plea to three charges and was ordered to pay a total of 11,500, plus 50 costs.
Natural England welcomed the result, which they described as the largest single fine for offences involving great crested newts.
The charges all related to incidents on or about October 1 2006.
A further three charges of intentionally killing great crested newts were dropped, as were all charges against company directors Laurence Corrigan, Richard Wiesener, John Groves and Wayne Low, Essential Vivendi Ltd and Essential Vivendi Management Ltd.
According to Natural England, the court heard that habitat next to newt breeding ponds was damaged when the company ordered vegetation clearance, landscaping and construction work.
Following similar breaches of legislation at the same development in 2002, Natural England, Scarborough Council and North Yorkshire Police worked together to persuade the developers to take newts into account when carrying out their works.
But a spokesman for Natural England, an independent publicly-funded agency, said it appeared the advice was not heeded.
Peter Nottage, Natural England's regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "We are always disappointed and saddened when cases end up in court as it means wildlife habitat has already been lost or damaged.
"We have repeatedly advised the developers how they could proceed with their plans while taking newts into account. We're frustrated the habitat destruction was just so unnecessary and has wasted a lot of time and resources. Hopefully the ruling will remind others in the construction industry to take protected species into account at an early stage."
Mr Nottage said thousands of great crested newt populations had been lost in the last century, although the law now protected this and other declining species, and developers were encouraged to seek advice. "We will continue to work in partnership with owners and occupiers across the country to ensure damage of this kind is limited," he added.
A spokesman for Essential Vivendi said no-one from the company wished to comment.