The press release issued by Natural England on 2 October 2023.
Derby-based property developer ordered to pay £14,435.17 for breaching conditions of an European Protected Species Bat Mitigation Licence.
- Derby-based property developer to pay total of £14,435.17
- Defendant pleads guilty to four charges over development in Ashbourne
- Court told defendant ignored advice from Natural England and ecologist
A Derby-based property developer has been ordered to pay a total of £14,435.17 in a prosecution brought by Natural England for breaching the conditions of a European Protected Species Bat Mitigation Licence.
On 4 September 2023 at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, Patrick Weekes, aged 55, of Radbourne Construction Limited, Vernongate, Derby, pleaded guilty to four offences relating to a housing development in Harehill, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
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.
The licence permitted the capture, disturbance, transport, and damage of resting places for Brown long-eared (Plecotus auritus) and Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) bats.
And it also permitted the damage of a breeding site for Brown long-eared bats.
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 took the decision to prosecute because the breaches were considered so significant as to have impacted the welfare and Favourable Conservation Status of the bat species involved.
The breaches left brown long-eared bats with no suitable maternity roosting provision within the site.
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.
In sentencing the defendant, the court noted that he had acted in contravention to the professional advice provided by both their own ecological consultant and Natural England.
Also the defendant did not carry out work to mitigate the harmful impact on bats when so instructed by Natural England.
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.”
All bat species are afforded legal protection as a European Protected Species under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
It is a criminal offence to contravene or fail to comply with any condition of a licence issued by Natural England, pursuant to Regulation 60(1) of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.
The Favourable Conservation Status of a species refers to the situation in which a habitat or species is thriving throughout its natural range and is expected to continue to thrive in the future.
Ensuring that Favourable Conservation Status is maintained after any licensable actions is key to all European Protected Species licensing decisions made by Natural England.