Developer fined for bat welfare breaches

A developer has been fined for endangering the welfare and conservation status of bats on a Derbyshire housing scheme.

Patrick Weekes, a director of Radbourne Construction Limited of Vernongate, Derby, was ordered to pay a total of £14,435 (including costs) after pleading guilty to four charges relating to the development in Harehill near Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Weekes had obtained a European Protected Species Bat Mitigation Licence, which permits work that might affect bats to take place, three years ago.

However, Natural England brought a prosecution after the body considered his breaches of the licence to be so significant as to have impacted the welfare and conservation status of the bat species involved.

According to Natural England, the developer’s actions left brown long-eared bats and common pipistrelle bats without adequate roosting provision, as well as endangering the welfare of both species.

Specifically, the defendant was shown to have installed a breathable roofing felt that represented a significant risk to bats as they could become entangled in the loose fibres.

He also stripped the roof of a property containing a common pipistrelle day roost without direct ecological supervision.

In addition, a multi-agency site visit, led by Natural England in February this year, found that Weekes failed to install compensation and mitigation measures. For example, specific ridge crevices and access tiles should have been installed to allow bats to roost within roof spaces.

Weekes also failed to complete post-development monitoring as agreed in the licence.

South Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court heard the defendant ignored the advice of both his own ecologist and Natural England, and failed to carry out work to mitigate the harmful impact on bats when instructed to do so.

He was fined £3,200 plus a victim’s surcharge of £1,280, as well as being ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £9,955.17.

Natural England’s national delivery director Steph Bird-Halton said the body did not take the decision to prosecute lightly.

“However, where individuals or companies place the welfare or Favourable Conservation Status of protected species at risk, we will not hesitate to take targeted and proportionate enforcement action,” she said.

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