11th December 2020

Company handed largest ever fine in relation to a wildlife crime

On Tuesday, 8 December Bellway Homes were fined for destroying a soprano pipistrelle roost at a construction site in Greenwich in 2017. Bellway Homes has been ordered to pay a fine of £600,000 by Woolwich Crown Court with further costs on top (further details HERE). It is our understanding that the company intends to make a £20,000 donation to the Bat Conservation Trust which will be ring-fenced, when received, to continue fighting wildlife crime.

This is possibly the biggest fine ever for a wildlife crime which sends a clear message that wildlife crime does not pay, that conservation must be taken seriously and that laws and planning policies matter and must be respected, not be ignored. Such laws are not simply red tape, they exist to protect our vulnerable wildlife. Taking bats and other wildlife into account as early as possible during the planning of a development will minimise the risk of additional costs, unnecessary delays and avoid prosecutions.

Roost destructions can severely impact on bat populations because bats are long lived and slow-breeding mammals and take a long time to recover from persecution and population declines. Bats are indicators of a healthy environment as well as being nocturnal predators of insects including some that impact on agricultural crops. Bats also help gardeners by controlling insect populations. They account for more than a quarter of mammal species in the UK. Several species have recently been listed at risk of extinction which highlights why their protection, both through the law and the courts remains vital (see: https://www.bats.org.uk/news/2020/07/bat-species-at-risk-of-extinction).

Although development has been identified as a key component of many bat crimes, we know that many in the industry want to do the right thing. This is why BCT runs in-house awareness training courses for a wide range of professionals, including roofing contractors, architects and facilities managers, covering legal responsibilities, how to avoid likely impacts and also enhancement of the built environment for bat species.

As ever the Bat Conservation Trust regrets the need for any prosecution for offences relating to bats. But equally we do ask that investigations and prosecutions into such matters are undertaken in an effective manner. Bellway Homes is a case that serves as an example of poor practice which could easily have been avoided if good ecological advice and the law had been followed. Taking wildlife into account during development proposals is essential and does not have to result in unreasonable costs or time delays if good advice is sought and followed early on in the planning process.

To report any wildlife crime, dial 999 if the crime is in progress or dial 101 if urgent such as where evidence is left at the scene.

For more information on wildlife crime and the work of wildlife crime officers please visit the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s website www.nwcu.police.uk

To find out more about BCT’s wildlife crime project please see: https://www.bats.org.uk/our-work/bearing-witness-for-wildlife/bat-crime

Builders and developers are encouraged to visit the BCT website for advice and information relating to bats and development, please see: https://www.bats.org.uk/our-work/buildings-planning-and-development.