28th September 2018

Bat Crime Conviction in York

Alex Burgess

An investigation led by the North Yorkshire Police, with support from Bat Conservation Trust and City of York Council, has helped to prosecute a developer for unlawfully demolishing a bat roost in York.

In 2016 Mr Mike Green on behalf of GEM Holdings (York) Ltd submitted a planning application to City of York Council asking permission to demolish buildings at North Lodge, Clifton Park Avenue, York and replace them with a structure containing 14 flats. Submitted in support of the planning permission was a bat survey report evidencing that the existing structure contained a small number of non-breeding day roosts containing solitary common pipistrelle bats. The report identified the need for a European Protected Species License to be obtained prior to the building being demolished. Planning permission was subsequently granted.

The building was demolished but no bat licence had been granted or sought from Natural England. Because bats’ reproduction is slow, bats only give birth to one pup a year, destruction of a roost can be detrimental to local bat populations. The matter was reported to North Yorkshire Police for investigation.

On 6th September 2018 Mr Green appeared at York Magistrates Court where he pleaded guilty to one charge of destroying a bat roost. He was fined £910 with additional costs and victim surcharge. Sergeant Kelly head of the forces rural and wildlife crime team said “Again we see ourselves at the end of another wildlife crime that could have been avoided. Crimes of this nature are so disappointing because they can be avoided, however Mr Green has received a financial penalty that reflects his poor decision making. Hopefully this serves as a benchmark for those who have the highest level of responsibility placed upon them to respect our wildlife through responsible and accountable planning and construction. There are many that follow the procedure to distinction, however there will always be the few that will choose poor decision making.”

Sergeant Kelly continued “These investigations are so intricate and time consuming, myself and specialist wildlife crime officer Pc 1371 Ruth Atkins have spent a lot of our time making sure this comes to a suitable prosecution. It is important that wildlife crime of all types are treated with the same regard as more traditional and conventional crimes as we know how important being effective in this area is to some members of the public. For more information on the work we do please follow us on twitter @NYPRuralTF”

This case exposes a commonly heard defence where developers cite the need to demolish buildings for reasons of health and safety that, they suggest, over-rides the legal protection afforded to bats. This is simply not the case, both health and safety and wildlife legislation has to be complied with. In any event the suggestion that buildings have to be demolished urgently because of their dangerous condition, when challenged, can seldom be evidenced.

Further information:

Bearing Witness for Wildlife - Conservation Wildlife Crime Project

Bat Crime Investigation

Please email question or press enquiries to: comms@bats.org.uk

Photo credit (c) Alex Burgess