Bats: East Budleigh Parish Conservation & Wildlife protection group speaks up for them

Please note the views expressed here are those of the group.

“Wildlife protection laws are not worth the paper they are written on,………

this is what we have discovered since our initial fight to save the rare Bats of the Pound in East Budleigh began.

A LOT has happened since then!

As many of you may be aware, our group managed to get the development of the site delayed for quite some considerable time, taking many months and TWO meetings of the Development Management Committee to seal our Bats fates.

AND, even though planning was eventually granted, we succeeded in convincing some of the DMC that the mitigation measures offered by Clinton Devon Estates did not go anywhere near far enough to give the wildlife on this very special site even a fighting chance of survival, let alone migrating naturally to the new proposed roosting site. Our reasoning was so convincing, that many more conditions were placed on the proposed development.

It makes this group wonder how many applications are passed where European protected species are involved, where the people that make the decisions are ill informed, under the impression that the laws are only ‘guidelines’, or sadly, just don’t care.

The majority of people we have spoken to about our Bats have exclaimed ‘they can’t do that, Bats are protected by law’.

Yet here we are, still fighting. Protected? not in this instance.

In February this year, members of the EBP Conservation & Wildlife protection group met with Clintons property development manager Clare James and head of conservation Dr Sam Bridgewater. We put forward a serious proposal to buy the barn and surrounding land, to preserve, protect, maintain and monitor it, for the resident wildlife and for the village.

To do this we would have to have had assurances that:

a) we would be given first refusal on the site, and
b) be given time to raise the funds.

We were given neither, despite requesting our proposal be put to their trustees prior to planning being granted or the site being put on the market. However, we were told that we would be informed the value of the site once planning was granted, and we would be entitled to bid like anyone else! We were indeed informed, two days after it went on the open market!

Our group found this hard to swallow, we had hoped that, given their high conservation credentials, CDE would welcome the opportunity to be involved in a community project that would give them some positive PR publicity and be best for the wildlife. But it appears that the trustees pockets come before the mere decline of a nationally rare species like the Grey Long Eared Bat, to name but one of the species present on the Pound.(estimated at a population of only 400 left in the UK)

Our dearest hope was to have been given the opportunity to have purchased the land, this would have been no small undertaking, raising funds for the initial purchase and maintenance, we wanted to create a soft release site for rehabilitated Bats,(two of our members rehabilitate injured Bats) and put in monitors.

All in all, a very detailed proposal, and a very exciting project that could have really made a difference to the rapidly declining species of the area.

So what has happened since planning permission has been granted, other than the ‘BIG’ MEET?

Bad weather (or a piece of farm machinery) hit the barn causing one set of the double doors to be damaged and subsequently collapse. This doorway was left open to the elements for six weeks or more, during which time we had started monitoring for returning Bats.

At this point we were picking up Greater Horseshoe, Grey Long Eared, Brown Long Eared, Noctule, Whiskered, Common Pipistrelles, and others on our Echo and heterodyne meters. In fact, we were picking these up at the end of February during the mild snap, which suggests to us and others, that this may, factoring in the milder climate, mean we are looking at a hibernation roost.

We have picked up 14 species of Bat using this area, though not all are roosting in the barn.

In early April the group were contacted by a concerned resident, alerting us to workmen boarding up the doorway. We were told this was being done for security and safety reasons.

We emailed CDE, asking that a letterbox sized aperture be cut close to the top of one door to allow continued access for our Bats. We will not bore you with the reply we received, but needless to say, no hole for the Bats was forthcoming!!!!!

Now Bats are creatures of habit, they tend to use the same entrances/exits, and if just one is blocked, they may well move on. (EU and domestic protected species law says it is illegal to prevent access or exit to a known roosting site). This was reported to the police but no further action was taken.

Part of the conditions placed on planning approval was to ensure the continued use of the barn by these animals until the ‘all singing all dancing ‘ purpose built Bat barn was erected. This is supposed to be in situ and be monitored for at least a year prior to the existing barn being demolished.

Conditions also related to the land on which the barn stands, how it should be maintained etc. Even the CDE ecology report by Richard Greene states that no clearing work should take place between April and October, an ecologist must be present, and the work be done in stages to allow for the migration of species like Dormice, Newts, Sloworms, etc from the area.

This site was cleared to ground level in one day by a ‘white van man’ with no ecological credentials, not once, BUT TWICE, both during bird breeding season, with no regard taken to looking prior to cutting.

In both incidences, it was reported to the enforcement officer at EDDC, and the wildlife crime unit. The enforcements officers response was that it is not in her remit to act on breaches of mitigation. So what is she being paid for then?

The Police response was far better, we have incident numbers, and both are being looked in to.

A reporter sought out our group, interested in the ‘goings on’ about our Bats and the Pound, so we will have to keep our eyes open in the papers with hopes of it being a favourable piece.

With rumours of ‘who and how much?’ rife in the local area, it seems, (hopefully) that one particular wealthy landowner won’t have it all their own way! We do know an offer has been made, but how much lower than the asking price of £250,000.

Who ever does buy it though, will not only have to have an up to date ecology survey done, but will also have ALL the mitigation measures, conditions, and this group making sure they are ALL adhered to.

We may have lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war!

In the meantime, the group continue to keep our eyes and ears open, monitor the Barn and Pound for it’s rarities, and continue to do our bit for our little corner of heaven in Devon.

LATE NEWS: Despite clearance of scrub occurring twice, we have had confirmation that no licence has been issued by Natural England who advised contacting the wildlife crime unit, which we have done.

(However, the license does not relate to maintaining plant growth, just the disturbance to animals roosting in the barn) so theoretically, no law has been broken, apparently CDE are well within their rights to cut vegetation back, despite all the planning conditions regarding clearing the site prior to demolition.

Anyone interested in helping us and our wildlife please email

ebpcwpgroup@yahoo.com”