Property developer prosecuted for breaching Bat Mitigation Licence

Credit: AdobeStock/Martin
Credit: AdobeStock/Martin

A Derby-based property developer has been ordered to pay a total of £14,435.17 for breaching the conditions of a European Protected Species Bat Mitigation Licence.

Patrick Weekes of Radbourne Construction Limited pleaded guilty to four offences relating to a housing development in Harehill, Derbyshire in September 2023 at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court in a prosecution brought by Natural England.

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

A European Protected Species Bat Mitigation Licence was issued to the defendant in October 2020 which permitted the capture, disturbance, transport, and damage of resting places for Brown long-eared (Plecotus auritus) and Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) bats.

It also permitted the damage of a breeding site for Brown long-eared bats.

However, the court was told that Natural England’s Wildlife Licensing Service had been made aware of potential breaches of the licence issued to the defendant in October 2022.

Natural England found that the breaches has left brown long-eared bats with no suitable maternity roosting provision within the site. These breaches were considered so significant as to have impacted the welfare and Favourable Conservation Status of the bat species involved.

They also significantly reduced the suitability of roosting opportunities for common pipistrelle bats, as well as endangering the welfare of both species.

Following a compliance check, Natural England’s Enforcement Team led a multi-agency site visit in February 2023 which evidenced that the defendant had breached the conditions of his licence on four counts:

  • Failed to install Bitumen type 1F roofing felt with hessian matrix as agreed in the licence. This roofing felt is designed to be non-breathable which mitigates the risks to bats. Breathable roofing membranes, such as the one installed by the defendant, can cause bats to become entangled in the loose fibres and result in their injury and/or death. This is a significant risk to bat welfare.
  • Failed to install the compensation and mitigation measures as agreed in the licence. Mitigation and compensation measures are included in licences to reduce the harm to bats, mitigate for any impacts, and where impacts cannot be mitigated then compensation is designed to maintain the Favourable Conservation Status as required in legislation. In this case, the agreed compensation in the form of various specific ridge crevices and access tiles to allow bats to roost within the roof were not installed, and the loft space set aside in one building to compensate for the loss of a Brown long-eared maternity roost was unsuitable and did not meet the requirements set out in the licence.
  • Failed to complete post-development monitoring as agreed in the licence. Monitoring is vital to understand whether the impacts of bats have been successfully mitigated and compensated for, as well as determining if there are any issues with the compensation that need to be addressed to ensure they remain suitable for use by bats.
  • Stripped the roof of a property containing a Common pipistrelle day roost without direct ecological supervision, as agreed in the licence. Ecologist supervision is required wherever there is a risk that bats can be encountered such as stripping a roof of a property with a confirmed bat roost present. This requirement is to ensure that works are done in a sympathetic way towards bats and if any bats are found during the process they can be safely transferred to a suitable bat box on site.

Steph Bird-Halton, Natural England’s National Delivery Director, commented: “Natural England does 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.

“I would like to thank the Bat Conservation Trust’s Wildlife Crime Project for the assistance they provided in this case.”

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