Developer fined £600k for destroying Greenwich bat roost

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Image caption,
Bellway Homes began work on the site at Artillery Place without obtaining a Natural England European Protected Species licence.

A housing developer has been fined £600,000 after knowingly demolishing the roost of a protected bat species.

Bellway Homes admitted destroying a breeding site for soprano pipistrelle bats in Artillery Place, Greenwich, south-east London in 2018.

Police said it was the largest ever fine issued by a court for a wildlife crime. All bats within the UK are European Protected Species.

The company was also ordered to pay £31,000 costs at Woolwich Crown Court.

Bellway Homes agreed to make a voluntary donation of £20,000 to the Bat Conservation Trust.

The bats were found in an abandoned building after Bellway Homes commissioned a survey on the site in 2017.

Image source, Daniel Hargreaves/
Image caption,
Soprano Pipistrelles are between 35mm-45mm (1.3in-1.7in) long

Soprano pipistrelles are found across the UK appear but are "selective in their habitat", according to the Bat Conservation Trust.

Due to the presence of bats, the developers were told they would need a Natural England European Protected Species licence for work to demolish buildings on the site.

The court heard Bellway Homes unsuccessfully attempted to remove the need for a licence from the planning requirements.

Without a licence, the developer carried out demolition work on the site between 17 March and 17 August 2018.

Investigating officer Insp David Hawtin said he hoped the fine "reinforces the message that this legislation is there for a reason and should be adhered too".

Bellway Homes said it "deeply regrets the circumstances which have led to this court case".

A spokesman said the company "has robust systems in place to ensure that the mistakes made on this site are not repeated and has made a substantial contribution to the Bats Conservation Trust".

"Bellway is carefully considering the judgment with its legal team and, as such, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage," he added.

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