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Shape of Newt: Ed Sheeran’s Private Chapel Plans on Hold for Protected Amphibians

Newt so fast, Ed Sheeran: The singer’s plans to build a private, non-denominational chapel on his property in Suffolk, England must await the results of an ecological survey regarding the possible effect on newt habitat, Sky News reports. Great crested newts—Britain’s largest newt species at a respectable 15 to 17 centimeters in length—face habitat loss and are legally protected, meaning it’s a violation to hurt them, kill them, or to damage the places where they live and breed. Sheeran’s property includes a pond where the Suffolk Wildlife Trust says the protected amphibians were recorded in 2015.

“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,” Sheeran’s representative, Paul Smith of Apex Planning Consultants, reportedly told local officials. “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.”

Great crested newts, a.k.a. “warty newts,” are something of a political football in Britain, where their protection has held up everything from a train station to an illegal outdoor rave. Some developers complain the legal requirements are too onerous and anticipate that Brexit could eliminate European Union environmental regulations.

Sheeran’s proposed private chapel would emulate traditional Anglo-Saxon architecture, with a round tower and room inside for about 24 congregants. Arguing for its construction, his building application reportedly notes that “it is every person’s right to be able to have a place of retreat for contemplation and prayer, for religious observance, celebration of key life and family milestones, marriages, christenings and so forth.” Plans for the chapel came to light a few months ago, sparking rumors that Sheeran and longtime girlfriend Cherry Seaborn, who announced their engagement this January, might intend to use the building for their wedding.

The chapel is hardly Sheeran’s first construction project. The superstar singer has snapped up multiple adjacent properties near the Suffolk town where he grew up, reportedly adding a swimming pool, a “man cave,” a treehouse, a garage, and underground cinema and music rooms accessible via tunnel. At least one previous project apparently ran into its own biodiversity issues: Earlier this year, the Daily Mail reported that Sheeran commissioned an “ecological enhancement” report on bat accommodations before he was allowed to install a private pub in his barn.

Tags: ed sheeran, newts