Ka-Pow! Bat Concerns Overcome

April 22, 2010 9:05 am Published by

Tetlow King Planning (TKP) helped to secure planning permission for a 23 dwelling affordable housing scheme in Midsomer Norton. Crucially, we helped persuade Bath and North East Somerset  Council that there were exceptional circumstances which outweighed the need to follow the usual procedure for European Protected Species whilst still providing compensatory habitat.

The scheme, to be delivered by Guinness Hermitage, is being subsidised by £2 million of local and national government funding. Not only will the development provide desperately needed affordable housing in the area, but it will also deliver the development of a key regeneration site within a Conservation Area on the prominent High Street of Midsomer Norton.

During the application process the Council requested a preliminary ecological report for the scheme. This concluded that there was a ‘moderate’ potential for bats to be roosting on the site. However, as any bats that used the site would currently be hibernating, it was impossible to ascertain if the site was a habitat for the European Protected Species. Government advice in PPS9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation states that it is not appropriate to leave any further survey work on protected species to be dealt with by condition, unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.

Guinness Hermitage needed to obtain planning permission almost immediately in order to secure Homes and Communities Agency funding for the scheme. Waiting for further surveys could have scuppered the whole scheme. TKP, in conjunction with the ecology consultants produced evidence demonstrating that the potential for loss of funding and consequentially the failure to deliver desperately needed affordable housing, the regeneration of the site and the enhancement of the built environment within a Conservation Area amounted to exceptional circumstances. A mitigation scheme was produced which ensured that if further surveys did discover bats were present then bat boxes could be provided within the new dwellings.  The Council eventually accepted all these arguments and approved the scheme.

TKP had been originally instructed to co-ordinate the submission of the application in order to avoid unnecessary delay during the planning process and ensure that the planning permission (including agreement of the conditions and the Section 106 Undertaking) were expedited within the tight timetable determined by the Homes and Communities Agency.