Bellway housebuilders fined £600,000 for destroying bat roost in south London

A building firm that carried out demolition work at a site known to be inhabited by bats has been handed a £600,000 fine, the largest ever issued by a court for a wildlife crime, according to police.

The pound at East Budleigh comes to mind. Would the police take action here? – Owl

Bellway, the housebuilders, admitted damaging or destroying a breeding site or resting place in Artillery Place, Greenwich, south-east London, in 2018, where soprano pipistrelle bats had been documented the previous year.

All species of the animal in the UK are protected.

Bellway, which also had to pay costs of £30,000, agreed to make a £20,000 donation to the Bat Conservation Trust, the Metropolitan police said.

Inspector David Hawtin praised Sgt Simon Henderson and PC Giles Balestrini for their roles in the investigation.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

At Woolwich crown court on Tuesday, the company pleaded guilty to damaging or destroying a breeding site or resting place of a wild animal of a European protected species between 17 March and 17 August 2018.

The company had been notified in planning documents that it would first need to obtain the appropriate mitigation and a Natural England European protected species licence.