When assessing a planning application for a proposed development, planning authorities must consider whether any protected species are likely to be affected. If there are protected species on site, planning conditions may be imposed to require a developer to obtain an appropriate licence before work commences. The sanctions for non-compliance with such planning conditions are costly, as demonstrated by the court ordering Bellway Homes to pay the largest fine ever issued for a wildlife crime.

All bats within the UK are European protected species and the presence of Soprano Pipistrelle bats had been recorded at Bellway’s Greenwich site in 2017. Therefore, the Local Planning Authority required Bellway Homes to obtain mitigation and species licences before proceeding with demolition work to any buildings on site. This licence is required for any works which would impact European protected species, including bats. Without this licence, the works would be illegal.

Bellway’s attempts to remove this planning requirement were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, demolition work was carried out at its Greenwich site in 2018 without either a variation to the planning condition or the relevant licence.

Bellway pleaded guilty to the offence of damaging and destroying a breeding site or resting place of a European protected species. They were ordered to pay a record fine of £600,000 and agreed to make a £20,000 donation to the Bat Conservation Trust.

The fine payable by Bellway has emphasised how costly it is to ignore planning requirements, particularly after going through the lengthy process of acquiring a development site.