Owl says: And, of course, our old friends, Clinton Devon Estates is involved …
“Quiet, quaint and colourful, East Budleigh is a picture-perfect Devon village.
But behind the beautiful, flower-lined streets and cottages with thatched roofs and statue of world-famous explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, there is a simmering row which has enveloped much of the community.
It is a classic David-versus-Goliath story of concerned local residents against a major land developer, and revolves around bats, a barn and a new building.
Hidden behind some trees just off Middle Street sits The Pound – an old, dilapidated barn which apparently acquired its name as a shelter for stray animals in the area.
Ironically, it is the presence of animals there today which is causing the problem: it is believed to house at least 14 different species of bat.
Among their number are grey long-eared bats, which are known to be exceptionally rare in the UK. One estimate puts their number at just 1000 in the UK, while the Bat Conservation Trust claims they are ‘extremely rare’.
The barn is also believed to be home to at least one live badger sett, as well as hazel dormice.
Sitting on a pretty, grassy patch of land and shaded by horse chestnut trees, The Pound is a popular spot where East Budleigh residents can enjoy the wildlife. There is a bench were locals can sit and chat, while next to it is a trailer said to have been left by American airmen after World War Two which is now full of bright flowers in full bloom.
But The Pound’s prime spot also makes it ripe for developement.
East Budleigh – Raleigh’s birthplace – is an affluent town – according to Rightmove.com, the average value of each house sold this year was just under £480,000. It is little wonder then that landowners Clinton Devon Homes have ear-marked the area for major work. They applied for planning permission which would see The Pound’s barn knocked down and a large, modern house built in its place.
Local residents were furious, mounting stiff opposition to the move and appealing to keep the barn in order to protect the bats.
An initial East Devon District Council development management committee meeting saw councillors defer a decision pending additional information from Natural England about wildlife mitigation on the site. Various concessions were made – including a separate ‘bat barn’ for the barn’s current inhabitants – and, at a subsequent meeting in April, the green light was given by eight votes to five.
A ‘licence to kill’ was how one councillor described the decision.
Upon hearing the result, one member of the public shouted: “The bats will all be dead within six months.”
Many East Budleigh residents, though, are not giving up that easily. “It’s heart-breaking,” said Kathy Moyle. “We have so few natural areas around here. As well as the rare bats, there is also a badger set here, as well as hazel dormice. “We are battling with our hands tied behind our backs. “We have certainly put a thorn in their flesh but I am not sure it is enough. We all just want it to be left alone.”
In a remarkable act of defiance, when the plans were first announced Kathy set up the the East Budleigh Parish Nature and Wildlife Conservation Group to try and find out just what – and how many – animals call The Pound their home.
Now, every Friday night, a dedicated group go out to monitor the comings and goings.
Their findings included three grey long-eared bats, with evidence to suggest a maternity roost. In theory, this would strengthen their claim that the barn should not be knocked down, although Kathy is sceptical.”
MEANWHILE, IN BEER:
“... Beer has been officially named a ‘Bat Friendly Community’ – only the second place in Devon to achieve the accolade.
The award is for the community’s work to conserve the endangered greater horseshoe bat. …