Bats scupper village house development

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Proposals for a new housing development in a quiet village have been overturned – because planners did not properly investigate the impact on bats.

Developers won permission for an 18-home scheme on land at Hall Lane, Great Eccleston, despite objections from local residents in 2012.

Among the concerns was the potential impact of removing a roadside hedgerow.

Bats are said to use the hedgerow for foraging and commuting.

Granting planning permission in November 2012, Wyre Council said the county ecologist had looked at the issue and raised no objections to plans.

But, after a legal challenge at the High Court, a top judge has quashed the permission and ordered that the council to reconsider the case.

Mr Justice Stewart said Lancashire County Council ecologist, Dr Sarah Manchester, had investigated the bat situation but wanted more information before giving an opinion.

In her report, Dr Manchester said the further information would need to show that mitigating measures would compensate for the loss of the bats’ habitat.

However, when an officer’s report went to the planning committee, it wrongly stated that “no objections” had been raised.

In fact, no further information had been submitted, he said.

It led to a judicial review challenge by local residents Andrew Bagshaw and Shirley Carroll, who claimed the mistake meant the planning committee had been misled as to the ecologist’s opinion.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Stewart said the council was under a duty to check whether protected species were present and then to determine the extent to which they might be affected.

“I accept the borough council established the presence or otherwise of protected species, namely the bats,” he said.

“However, I do not accept they established the extent that they may be affected 
by the proposed development.”

The officer’s report had “significantly misled” the planning committee on the position of the county ecologist, he continued.

The grant of planning permission was quashed by the court.