York & North Yorkshire

Kirby Misperton fracking: Police investigate bats at site

Pipistrelle Image copyright PA
Image caption It is illegal to damage, disturb or kill a bat and its roosting place unless a mitigation licence from Natural England is issued

Police are investigating whether protected species of bats are at a North Yorkshire fracking site.

Friends of the Earth wrote to police suggesting their potential presence at Kirby Misperton.

Third Energy, which was given permission to operate a site there in 2016, said wildlife protection had been addressed during the planning process.

Natural England said bats were using the village but did not know if they were at the fracking site.

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The government advisors highlighted several species of bats, including common and soprano pipistrelle and Myotis, which were using the area for foraging, while noctule and brown long-eared bats passed through.

It said: "We are working closely with and advising North Yorkshire Police on their investigations."

It is illegal to damage, disturb or kill a bat and its roosting place without a special license from Natural England.

North Yorkshire Police said it would now "determine the next steps".

Third Energy, which has not received final consent to begin fracking but expects to start before the end of the year, said wildlife protection, including bats, was "specifically addressed in the planning process".

The company said it would "complete a further survey in accordance with the planning consent".

Image copyright Richard Koczy
Image caption Common pipistrelles are among the bat species living in Kirby Misperton, Natural England says

The law on bats

It is a criminal offence if you:

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats
  • Damage or destroy a bat roosting or resting place
  • Possess or sell or transport a bat (dead or alive) or any part of a bat
  • Obstruct access to a bat's shelter or resting place

Those found guilty of any offences could:

  • Be handed a jail term of up to 6 months
  • Receive an unlimited fine

Source: Natural England and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Simon Bowens, from Friends of the Earth, said: "In our view, Third Energy has failed to carry out a proper assessment of the impact of fracking at the Kirby Misperton site.

"We hope that North Yorkshire Police will seize this narrow window of opportunity to ensure that disturbance and harm to these legally protected bats is prevented."

As part of its planning statement submitted to North Yorkshire County Council in 2015, Third Energy outlined "there will be no significant adverse effect on foraging bats and there will be no loss of any potential roost".

Image caption Protesters tried to stop lorries from transporting specialist equipment to the fracking site on Tuesday

In a statement, the company said: "It should be remembered that the KMA well site itself has been there since 1985 and provides no suitable places for bat roosts and limited foraging opportunities, because of the hard-standing and existing well-site infrastructure."

It said operations were due to start this month.

Meanwhile, four people have been charged over protests outside the site.