Dormouse S.O.S. update.

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.



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16 Responses to Dormouse S.O.S. update.

  1. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    You can appeal against the decision, there’s such a thing as a judicial review – which is costly and in general councils avoid this route because if they lose – they pick up the bill! So there should be proper consultation, especially with Cameron’s whole ‘big society’ movement. Doesn’t look much to me like they’re following that.

    Can you not put TSO on various trees and hedges? Not quite sure if it’s possible to slap them on private land – I’m sure I’ve heard of it happening before; my friend works for UK Coal and local residents had put TSOs on trees on their land to stop them building.

    As for the wildlife survey… Well normally they look for proper roosting sites and signs of droppings?? I’ve read surveys before outlining just that! Of course the technicality may be that they don’t actually roost in the trees, but in the nearby church and as that isn’t covered by the planning permission then the removal of the trees makes no difference.

    Sorry to hear that you have dodgy councillors; I’d still get the survey done and then once the Dormice are found they *should* put an immediate stop on all development.

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks for getting back so soon Liz. I did ask about a TPO but was told that as the Dormouse habitat was so protected by law, that it wouldn’t be necessary! We are intending to ask Natural England to do a survey for us, they have an office in Exeter, not far away, so hopefully they can sort this out for us.

  2. Liz says:

    Doh! Sorry, TPO not TSO only just woken up…. 😀

  3. oh Pauline I am so sad for you, I would have thought there were rules and regulations about wildlife surveys being carried out at an appropriate time, to me and my logical thinking if the wildlife surveyor didn’t take into concideration that these small creatures are hibernating then how on earth can he be qualified to carry out a wildlife survey in the first place, not asking you for an answer just expressing opinion,
    sounds to me a bit like those councillors have a vested interest or a backhander!

    Liz gives some good advice I wouldn’t know where or how to start, can I ask you both what is a TPO?
    do we see an Erin Brockovich in the making 🙂
    I wish you luck with all your efforts, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      Apparently Frances, there is a very basic survey that can be done and this is what has happened and the council are happy with it, just one old gentleman of about 80 wanted a more detailed survey done in May, bless him! We will get one done ourselves.
      A TPO is a tree preservation order, you can’t cut a tree down or remove any branches without permission from the council.
      I knew the name Erin Brockovich but had not seen the movie, googled some details before answering you. Everything says she is strong, tough, stubborn and sexy, I’m definitely not sexy!!

  4. I do hope the NEXT round will be successful. How bloody infuriating to have people chatting during your allocated 3 minutes!

    • Pauline says:

      It certainly was frustrating Diane, we got the impression that it had already been decided and that we were just being a nuisance! Hope we will get somewhere with our survey, will let you all know!

  5. wellywoman says:

    Sorry to hear your afternoon with the council was so frustrating. Hopefully when you get a proper survey done you should have more evidence to put a halt to things. Have you tried your local Wildlife Trust? They might be able to help.

    • Pauline says:

      We have found out WW, that Wildlife Trusts don’t get involved between private individuals and developers unfortunately. Devon Wildlife Trust has however said that they have a member who might help with identifying the bat that we have, which will be a help. Once the Easter weekend is over we can contact Natural England and hope to get them on board.

  6. Erin fought for the rights of people over a big company who had poisoned their water supply and she and her boss won, it was her determination and continued pushing not letting the matter get swept aside that got them through, the finally award to the people affected by the poisoning was at the time the biggest in US history, true story not just a film,
    I hope you get some where with Natural England and am shocked! that a wildlife survey can be soooo casual which in my mind makes a joke of the whole concept, my comment about backhander was due to their chatting during your talking, I think as you do in your reply to Diane, good luck, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      Erin seems a feisty lady Frances, and from the information on Google is now helping people all over the USA, can’t see me going that far! Having read how protected Dormouse habitat is and what huge fines can be imposed if they are disturbed, I am amazed that the Council hasn’t taken more notice, we will just have to wait and see what Natural England come up with. Thanks for getting back to me.

  7. Helle (Helen) says:

    How frustrating and irritating this must all be. Have you thought about maybe getting your local newspaper to write a piece on this? Politicians always seem to hate bad press, and not caring about dormice and bats is usually something that gets people’s attention.

  8. anne says:

    hello pauline,
    how is it all going.please give a update. the dormice should be awake by now.mine is.

    south east wales

    • Pauline says:

      Nothing much seems to be happening at the moment Anne. The school is up for sale along with 2 building plots, we hear people next door, but the trees and bushes are so thick on our side, we can’t see through! Haven’t seen any evidence of our dormice, but know they must be around as neighbours have seen them.

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