1st February 2008

Developer hit with £3,500 fine for destroying bat roost

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has welcomed the prosecution of property developer P J Livesey Group, which pleaded guilty to illegal damage/destruction of a bat roost. The incident occurred at Bedwell Park, Essendon in Hertfordshire in the autumn of 2006.

Crimes against bats and their roosts are incredibly damaging to the conservation of bats in the UK. The destruction of just one bat roost can lead to the loss of hundreds of bats, which can take many years to recover.

In 2005 a bat survey was undertaken to comply with a requirement of the planning permission granted for Bedwell Park by Welwyn Hatfield Council. Three species of bat were identified at the site. However, in 2006 P J Livesey Group commissioned another survey by a different consultant for a new application at the site, which included a loft conversion. This survey reported that no recent evidence of bats could be found. Concerns were raised about the differences in the surveys, and the local bat group visited the site and reported recent evidence of bats and saw bats.

In the autumn of 2006 demolition and conversion works took place at the location of the bat roost. This was illegal because no licence to damage or destroy a roost had been obtained under the Habitats Regulations. The police visited the site in December 2006 and discovered the illegal works.

According to the PJ Livesey Group's website, it "built its reputation through painstaking renovation of some of the finest period properties in England." The Group says it looks holistically at the problems of buildings and provides "a single solution that covers, aesthetics, design, construction, costs, interior design, furniture and fittings."

Alison Rasey, Investigations Officer at the Bat Conservation Trust, said: "They will now have to add environmental issues to this list. The sorts of buildings that this company renovates are highly likely to host bat roosts either within the buildings or within the grounds of these properties, and it is a great shame that the company seemed to ignore its legal responsibilities to protected species, making prosecution the only option."

Kelvin Jones, Operation Bat Project Officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: "We would always much rather prevent damaging incidents from happening in the first place and so education will always be our first choice in protecting bats and their roosts. However, sadly, there are cases where pursuing prosecutions is considered necessary to safeguard bat conservation. Sometimes only the reality of prosecution will encourage people to keep within the law."

Ms Rasey went on to say: "Hopefully others in the industry will learn from this, and take proper account of bats and the legal processes before developing their sites. Bats are very vulnerable animals and they need all sectors of the land use and development professions to follow the correct procedures for ensuring their survival."

BCT would like to thank the police, CPS, and bat workers involved in bringing this case to court.

P J Livesey Group was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £2,000 costs.

For further information:Jaime EasthamBat Conservation Trust T: 0207 501 3635

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