22 Dec 2020

A major house builder has been ordered to pay what is understood to be the largest fine ever issued by a court in relation to a wildlife crime.

On 8 December at Woolwich Crown Court, Bellway Homes pleaded guilty to the offence between 17 March 2018 and 17 August 2018 of damaging or destroying a breeding site or resting place for bats.

The company was ordered to pay a fine of £600,000 with further costs of over £30,000. It has 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, SE18 in 2018.

The presence of Soprano Pipistrelle bats had been documented at the site in 2017 and Bellway Homes had been notified in planning documents that if they wished to carry out work they would need to first obtain the appropriate mitigation and a Natural England European Protected Species licence.

All bats within the UK are European Protected Species.

On 3 December 2018 police were notified by the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s planning department that demolition work had been carried out at the site.

Police made enquiries with Natural England who 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 Bellway Homes to remove that particular aspect of the planning requirements – this had not been granted.

Officers sought advice from the Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit and the Crown Prosecution Service and following an investigation the company was charged on 19 November 2019.

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 too.”

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