I thought I would update you with our fight to try and save the habitat of the dormice and bats that we know are in our garden. If you remember from last December, the school next to us has closed and the owner wants to build 2 more houses as well as extending the school into a huge dwelling. In the process he wants to cut down various trees and the hedge which are on his boundary of the lane between us.
We couldn’t believe it when we received an e.mail from our local Council to say that the developer next door had his wildlife survey done on 12th March, doesn’t he know that all self respecting wildlife is hibernating until late April / May?!
Of course he does, there can only be one reason why he had it done so early, that is the only way his survey will show no evidence of the dormice or bats that I am trying to protect.
The copy of the survey which was sent to us said that the developer and his “wildlife expert” stood on the tarmac and looked up into the bare tree tops with binoculars and said that there was no evidence of bats! This was mid morning, don’t they realise that even if the bats weren’t hibernating, they would be sound asleep somewhere!
We must get the bats identified, but we think they may be Serotine bats because they are so large. They are so different from the little pipistrelle bats that zoom around the house on summer evenings. If it is a Serotine, then they roost in old churches, we have one 200 yds away and parts of it date back 1,000 yrs, to Norman times, is that old enough!
Serotines fly up to 3 kms to feed and they feed on the tree tops, just crawling along the branches, eating any insects that they find. Occasionally they will swoop down before dusk, flying through clouds of midges, hoovering them up as they go. This is when we have seen them and boy, they are big!! Apparently only found in the south of England, we had never seen such a large bat before, body about sparrow size, but the wings are more the size of a blackbirds. The flight that we saw was a glide down from the treetops, a couple of very slow lazy wing beats and it glided back into the trees again.
For the developer to say that removing the gappy hedge ( why can’t he fill the gaps like I am doing!) and the trees won’t affect the wildlife because he will plant new, shows that he doesn’t appreciate the fact that wildlife doesn’t respect our boundaries. Dormice that live in our garden are bound to move through the lane and the hedge on the school side and the bat that feeds in the trees doesn’t mind who the trees belong to.
A meeting was held at the local Council offices last Tuesday and we were invited to speak for 3 minutes, where I told them more or less what I have just told you, pointing out that both habitats are so well protected by law that removal of the hedge and trees should not be allowed and asked them to delay making a decision until wildlife surveys could be done at the proper time.
We were told to be at the Council Offices for 2pm, but the planning application for the school next door didn’t come up until 4.15pm! While I was speaking for the required 3 minutes I was watching the Chairman talking to the councillor next to him and other councillors talking to their neighbours, not listening to what I was saying at all. It was the same when my husband had his 3 minutes, then various comments were made, details taken out of context, and of course, we did not have a right to reply!
Our local independent councillor spoke for a while and supported what we both said and asked that the decision could be delayed for a month so that a proper wildlife survey could be done by Natual England when the dormice and bats would be out of hibernation.
After a very quick word with their legal expert, the Chairman announced that he was happy with the wildlife survey that had been done on March 12th. All of a sudden a vote was taken …..planning permission was granted, only one councillor voted against, wanting to wait for a new survey to be done.
What a waste of an afternoon! We came home very dejected and felt very frustrated, but will rethink and see if there is anything else we can do to save the dormice and bats habitat. We will try and have our own survey done and will definitely get someone to come and identify our bat, will keep you informed of any updates.
The two photos that I have put here are of our woodland area which joins onto the hedge our side of the lane between us and the school, as long as we live here the dormice and bats will be able to enjoy it.