Home Somerset rules Bath property tycoon charged with ‘crime against wildlife’ at beauty spot

Bath property tycoon charged with ‘crime against wildlife’ at beauty spot


Trevor Osborne, a property mogul with a home near Bath, has been charged with environmental crimes, after he allegedly demolished a bat roost. The alleged incident happened during clearance works for his new hotel, in Porthleven, Cornwall.

The Combe Hay resident already owns large swaths of Cornish Harbor and is in the process of turning the Fish Warehouse and surrounding land into a Porthleven Arts Hotel, Cornwall Live reports. Work on Breageside Quay is due to start in September.

The Trevor Osborne Property Group applied for planning permission for the project in 2018. Due to the location of the development in front of an ancient excavated cave where bats can roost, the council requested that an impact assessment environmental impact on bats is carried out.

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The survey revealed the presence of greater and lesser horseshoe bats which are not only protected but have priority status. They are also designated European protected species.

For work to continue in the port, the company – and its subcontractors – would have needed a special license from Natural England. They should also have followed an agreed work schedule with an environmentalist to ensure the bats are not disturbed.

Now the Porthleven Environment Group has claimed the developers broke all the rules and committed a wildlife crime. The real estate group denies these allegations.

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Trevor Toms, the chairman of the environmental group, said: “You can’t just bulldoze in. That’s exactly what Trevor Osborne Property Group and its contractors have done.

“They used heavy machinery to demolish the workshop, which led to the destruction of a pipistrelle roost which is one of our most common, but nonetheless protected bat species. They drilled anchor points in the cliff to put mesh in and cover the bat cave with an industrial steel netting which is a blatant obstruction of a nesting area.

“We alerted them to what they had done and they quickly punched a hole in the net. And it was certainly very quick because they realized that if they hadn’t breached any planning requirements they had definitely broken the law. All of these, the destruction, disturbance and obstruction of roosts are against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.”

Mr Toms said the PEG has since reported the property group and its contractors to the Devon and Cornwall Police Wildlife Crime Unit. A police spokeswoman confirmed this, saying an investigation had been opened: “Police have been made aware of reports of disturbance to bat habitat at Porthleven. wildlife crime have been informed and investigations are still ongoing.”

Mr Toms explained that the environmental group’s complaint did not relate to the merits of the Porthleven Arts Hotel and associated development. He said it was about doing things legally so that protected species could remain so.

He added: “We are completely concerned about a developer’s blatant disregard for endangered species which they trample for money. This wildlife crime should not be swept under the rug.

“If the police don’t prosecute, it sets a shocking example for other developers, many of whom are doing things properly and legally. If other developers go through environmental investigations and play by the rules, why can’t the Trevor Osborne Property Group- he not do the same.”

A spokesman for the Trevor Osborne Property Group said that over the past few months the company had prepared for the main contract by completing enabling works, including demolishing an on-site shed and stabilizing the cliff face. behind the site.

He added: “The work excluded any interface with the cave at the rear of the site where bat activity has previously been reported and did not include any work known to obstruct this cave. We emphasize that the cave is currently less obstructed than at any time in its recent history, and our contractor has confirmed that he did not cover or obstruct the cave during his work.

This is the contentious point which the PEG says is not true, claiming that the entrance to the cave was discovered after alerting the contractors that they could not put wire mesh in front of the opening of the cave. cave.

The TOPG spokesperson added: “As part of our development work, our conservationist has highlighted the need to obtain a license from Natural England before the tunnel is blocked and we can confirm that this requirement will be met before In addition, the agreed construction of a new bat roost on the roof of the fish store is expected to be built at the very start of the main contract program We have passed on Porthleven Environment’s concerns Group to our environmentalist and we will comply with any other requirements they deem necessary.”

What are horseshoe bats?

The greater horseshoe bat was traditionally found in caves, but these days it tends to like old buildings, like churches and barns. It is rare in the UK and like many other bats its numbers are dwindling.

You can spot them at night, and only between April and October, as they hibernate during the winter, in abandoned caves, mines and tunnels. One of our largest bats, they are the size of a small pear and catch insects like moths using echolocation.

Greater horseshoe bats in the UK are only found in South West England and South Wales. You can spot them by their plump, horseshoe-shaped noses and reddish-brown fur on their backs and cream below.

The lesser horseshoe is one of our smallest bats and is about the size of a plum. Like its “tall” cousin, it has a characteristic fleshy horseshoe-shaped nose. Its coat is gray-brown on the back and white below.

They are also in decline and – like the greater horseshoe – are a protected European species. Both types are also priority species under the UK’s post-2010 biodiversity framework.

What the law says?

According to Schedule Five of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, “A person is guilty of an offense if, intentionally or recklessly,

  • it damages or destroys any structure or place that any wild animal specified in Schedule Five uses for shelter or protection;
  • it disturbs such an animal while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for shelter or protection; or
  • it obstructs access to any structure or place that such an animal uses for shelter or protection.”

Schedule Five includes “all species of horseshoe bats”. You can find the full law here.

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