By Rafi Mauro-Benady
A building company is to pay the largest fine ever issued by a court in relation to a wildlife crime.
On Tuesday December 8, Bellway Homes admitted damaging or destroying a breeding site or resting place for bats at a construction site in Greenwich, following an investigation from the Metropolitan Police.
The company was fined £600,000 with further costs of more than £30,000.
Bellway Homes also agreed to make a voluntary donation of £20,000 to the Bat Conservation Trust.
The case was brought after Bellway Homes carried out demolition work at a site in Artillery Place, Woolwich in 2018.
Soprano Pipistrelle bats had been documented at the site in 2017.
Bellway Homes had been told in planning documents that if it wanted to carry out work it would need to first obtain the appropriate mitigation and a Natural England European Protected Species licence.
On December 3, 2018 police were notified by Greenwich council’s planning department that demolition work had been carried out at the site.
Police made enquiries with Natural England, which has confirmed no such licence was applied for by the company for that specific development.
The planning officer for the site also confirmed an attempt had been made by the company to remove that particular aspect of the planning requirements – a move which had not been granted.
Officers sought advice from the Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit and the Crown Prosecution Service and, following a thorough investigation, the company was charged on November 19, 2019.
On December 8 at Woolwich Crown Court, Bellway Homes pleaded guilty to damaging or destroying a breeding site or resting place of a wild animal of a European protected species, namely Bats.
Inspector David Hawtin, of the Greenwich Safer Neighbourhoods Team, said: “The success of this case has been the result of diligent investigation by Sgt Simon Henderson and PC Giles Balestrini, two officers based on the South East BCU.
“With the expert assistance of colleagues from specialist units within the Met, the officers constructed evidence to prove that the company had indeed committed an offence by carrying out work at a site where bats were known to inhabit.
“Bellway Homes has admitted responsibility for this and I hope it reinforces the message that this legislation is there for a reason and should be adhered to.”
All bats within the UK are European Protected Species.
Pictured top: A Soprano Pipistrelle bat
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