A housing developer which knowingly allowed the destruction of a roost of a protected bat species in Woolwich has pleaded guilty to a wildlife offence.

Bellway Homes, a national house building company, commissioned the bats’ site to be destroyed when they were developing derelict buildings in Artillery Row.

The company pleaded guilty to destroying a breeding site or resting place of a wild animal of a European protected species on December 20 at Bromley Magistrates' Court.

In 2017, a bat survey was undertaken at the property, commissioned by Bellway Homes. It contained a table with a ‘Summary of Bat Survey Findings’. This clearly showed the presence of a Soprano Pipistrelle bat returning to a gap between a window and lintel at the property.

As such, the presence of Soprano Pipistrelle bats was noted. These bats are a European Protected Species (EPS). As a result, Bellway Homes were required to apply for an EPS Licence from Natural England. No such licence was sought, and the buildings were demolished between March and August 2018.

Robert Short, from the CPS, said: “Bellway Homes recklessly authorised sub-contractors to knock down a building knowing there were bats present and without following EPS guidelines.

“EPS guidelines are put in place for very good reason - to ensure that species are protected. Bellway Homes recklessly disregarded this when they arranged for the destruction of the building where the bats were roosting.

“By flouting the guidelines, they also avoided paying the costs associated with it. This will now have to be addressed as part of the sentence, and we will be applying to the court for costs to be repaid under proceeds of crime.

“These bats, and all bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law. Bellway Homes disregarded this when they pursued their development and now have to face the consequences of doing so”.