Corn man fined £ 1,600 after destroying protected habitat for bats and newts in order to develop property

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A man has been fined £ 1,600 after deliberately destroying protected habitat for bats and newts so he can develop his property.

David Pearce, of Four Oaks Road, Headcorn, has pleaded guilty to damaging the homes of pipistrelle bats, brown bats and crested newts.

A great crested newt

It happened at a Headcorn address and the 56-year-old appeared in Maidstone Magistrates’ Court earlier this month following an investigation by the Police Rural Task Force from Kent.

In December 2019, he applied for a building permit for a barn conversion.

As part of the planning process, an ecological study was carried out which concluded that the chicken coop was used both as a daytime roost and for hibernation by long-eared brown bats and pipistrelle bats.

A closer look at the site revealed that a disused pool was being used as a breeding ground for crested newts.

As bats and newts are protected by law, the survey highlighted the need to obtain a European Mitigation License for Protected Species from Natural England and to carry out all work in the presence of a manager of bats approved.

A brown bat with long ears.  Photo: Daniel Hargreaves / www.bats.org.uk
A brown bat with long ears. Photo: Daniel Hargreaves / www.bats.org.uk

With respect to newts, the investigation concluded that there was a need for a receiving site, trapping and newt-proof fence.

In March 2021, an environmentalist working for the Bat Conservation Trust visited the site in response to a report of a stranded bat.

She realized that work had started on the barn, with the walls removed and scaffolding erected, resulting in the destruction of the dormitory used by the bats.

Pearce was then questioned and he admitted that earthworks had been done and the pool had been drained, destroying the habitat of the newts.

He was fined £ 1,600 after appearing in court, as well as paying an additional £ 245 to cover prosecution costs and a victim fine surcharge.

“It is likely that a number of these endangered species would have died as a result of the destruction of their habitat.”

Sgt. Darren Walshaw of the Rural Task Force said: “It is disappointing that this individual developed the site when he was aware of the damage it would cause to the protected species that live there.

“The construction work should have been carried out under license and supervised by experts specializing in wildlife.

“It is likely that a number of these endangered species have died as a result of habitat destruction.

“We will not hesitate to take action against those who show blatant disregard for the regulations in place to protect endangered animals.”

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