Oxfordshire Director of Legal

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Council to pay £1,000, build new bat hibernation boxes and improve processes after Ombudsman criticises planning approval

Warwick District Council has agreed to pay £1,000 and provide new hibernation boxes for bats after it failed to properly consider the impact a development might have on local wildlife when it approved a planning application.

According to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Warwick approved the planning application without requiring the developer to provide necessary details of bats using the site, despite the history of bats living in the vicinity. Warwick also failed to require the developer to compensate for the bio-diverse land lost.

Protection of the site goes back to the mid-2000s when a neighbouring site was approved for housing. As part of that development, the Secretary of State insisted a bat barn was created to protect the local bat population.

The current dispute stems from a 2017 application to build homes on fields next to the original site. This application was approved and before work began, the developer removed a hedge and a number of trees which were important to the bats.

Nigel Ellis, Chief Executive at the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “When considering planning applications for particularly sensitive sites such as these, it is all the more important that planners gain the necessary information and advice in a timely manner, to give the committees approving applications the best chance of making an appropriate decision.

“Evidence of at least three different species of bats have been found at the site, and a nearby major infrastructure project had to be relocated because a rare species was found. In this case, because the necessary surveys were not conducted at the right time, we can never be sure just what impact the development has had on the local bat population.

“I hope the measures the council has now agreed to take will go some way to offset the potential damage that has been done to biodiversity in the area, and the agreed improvements to the planning process will ensure decisions are made properly in future.”

The LGO also said that Warwick had started looking into whether it can use land it owns to offset the loss of bio-diverse land. It has also identified a woodland which is managed by a local wildlife group, that could be improved for bats by installing specially built hibernation boxes.

According to Warwick, the council has also implemented revised processes to prevent future infractions.

In a statement, Warwick District Council said: “The council accepts the Ombudsman’s recommendations. In the three years since the planning permission was granted, the council has established revised processes and practices which seek to ensure the issues identified are not repeated.

“The council will be reporting back to the Ombudsman in due course to demonstrate that all recommendations have been, or are being, met.”

Adam Carey