Bellway Homes admitted damaging or destroying a breeding site or resting place for bats at a construction site in Greenwich, following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
The company was ordered to pay a fine of £600,000 with further costs of over £30,000. It is the largest fine ever issued by a court in relation to a wildlife crime.
Bellway Homes also agreed to make a voluntary donation of £20,000 to the Bat Conservation Trust.
The case was brought after Bellway carried out demolition work at a site in Artillery Place, London SE18 in 2018. The presence of Soprano Pipistrelle bats had been documented at the site in 2017 and Bellway Homes had been notified in planning documents that if it wanted to carry out work then it would first need to obtain the appropriate mitigation and a Natural England European Protected Species licence. (All bats within the UK are European Protected Species.)
On 3rd December 2018 police were notified by the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s planning department that demolition work had been carried out at the site. Police made enquiries with Natural England, which confirmed Bellway did not have the required licence. The planning officer for the site also confirmed an attempt had been made by Bellway Homes to remove that particular aspect of the planning requirements – but this had not been granted.
Officers sought advice from the Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit and the Crown Prosecution Service and the company was charged in November 2019.
Inspector David Hawtin, of the Greenwich Safer Neighbourhoods Team, said: “Bellway Homes has admitted responsibility for this and I hope it reinforces the message that this legislation is there for a reason and should be adhered to.”