East Budleigh – rare bats or bulldozers? Special council meeting 7 November 2018

Clinton Devon Estates – which frequently touts its so-called environmental credentials – now has a difficult choice to make in East Budleigh – as does East Devon District Council.

A short notice special meeting of East Budleigh Parish Council has been called for 7pm on Tuesday 6 November to discuss the findings below which will bring into sharp relief a pressing question: which is most important: environmental sustainability and bio-diversity or cold, hard profit?

The East Budleigh Parish Wildlife Protection and Conservation Group was formed earlier this year to try to save what were thought to be 11 species of bat from having their habitat destroyed as a result of 18/1464/FUL — Demolition of existing barn and construction of a single dwelling behind the Pound. As a result of their observations they have recorded as many as 14 of the 18 known species in the UK.

This not only confirms but extends the survey conducted by Richard Green Ecology between 2012 and 2017 for Clinton Devon Estates (CDE). This survey found: the rare Greater Horseshoe (roosting); Lesser Horseshoe (roosting); the very rare Grey Long Earned (roosting); Natterer (roosting); Soprano and Pipistrelle (roosting). These findings make this site one of the most species rich in the County.

Of these, the finding of Grey Long Eared, Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats are, perhaps, the most exciting as they are some of the rarest bat species in the UK.

EDDC, in order no doubt to inform the DMC, has just published an independent review of the CDE commissioned Richard Green ecology report. We the ratepayers have paid for this review and Owl wonders whether it represents value for money in these hard pressed times. All it appears to be, as is clear from the Terms of Reference, is a review of the 2012/2017 work done by Richard Green to see whether it was reasonable and in line with best practice, given the ecological constraints identified. Not surprisingly, since it was conducted by a reputable ecological survey firm, another equally reputable firm concludes it was fine.

This ratepayer funded review presents no new data to support or reject the more recent local finding of 14 bat species, indeed it couldn’t really do this because it was conducted too late in the year when bats are less active as they begin to hibernate and the surveyors didn’t venture onto private ground.

The original surveys were undertaken on 31 August and 10 September 2012 including a dusk bat emergence survey and placement of an automated bat detector in the barn between 11 and 17 September 2012, allowing recorded bat calls to be analysed. Further bat emergence surveys were undertaken on 25 May and 22 June 2016, and 31 July 2017. The East Budleigh Group have spent many evenings conducting observation using computer aided bat detectors this year, 2018.

One question not satisfactorily answered is whether the barn is being used as a maternity roost. This is particularly important as some species like the Grey Long Eared bat are so rare that research advice from the University of Bristol states that maternity roosts should not be destroyed under any circumstances as this would compromise the favourable conservation status of the species, particularly as research has shown maternity roosts of this species do not respond to mitigation measures.

In the UK, Grey Long-Eared bats tend to live in close proximity to human settlements and roost almost exclusively in man-made roosts making the barn in East Budleigh an important roost. The overall estimated population size is around 1000 making it one of the rarest of UK mammals. Its extinction risk is high due to its habitat specialisation of foraging close to or within the vegetation, its small foraging ranges and limited long distance dispersal ability is a result of its flight profile. There are only eight known maternity colonies left in the UK and females have only one pup a year. So there has to be one near the Pound.

Another question is whether the demolition and rebuild will destroy too much habitat so the bats will never return, despite “mitigation”. (When CDE developed the Budleigh Salterton allotment site their slow worm “mitigation” was a disaster, they were simply bulldozed away by mistake).

Surely we ought to be celebrating the discovery that East Budleigh has one of the most species diverse bat colonies in Devon rather than sending in the bulldozers – again.

Everyone involved would do well to read this recent article:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/03/stop-biodiversity-loss-or-we-could-face-our-own-extinction-warns-un

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