Bat concern over St Albans Girls School development

CONCERN about the potential impact on wildlife of a proposed major residential development near St Albans Girls School appears to have been borne out with confirmation that bats live in six different locations close to the Green Belt site.

A spokeswoman for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) said that surveys had shown the tiny pipistrelle bat, and long-eared bat, which are legally protected, lived in roosts “very close by” the site earmarked for 125 homes at the rear of properties in Harpenden Road, St Albans.

The nearest bats live less than one kilometre away and pipistrelles are known to fly up to 15 kms while the long-eared bat can fly up to five kilometres to forage for food.

Following publicity about the draft plans to build 125 homes on land in Harpenden Road, between Sandbridgebury Lane and Woollams playing fields, several residents said they rarely saw bats since a copse on the proposed development site had been “levelled” more than a year ago.

The HMWT spokeswoman said: “Woodlands, especially those with older trees, are particularly important habitats for bats, giving them a place to roost and plenty of insects to feed on.

“Also, the edges of woodland and hedges create ‘corridors’ for bats to move between their roost site and foraging grounds.

“If the copse had older trees present, the likelihood of bats being present is higher as they like older trees or trees with cracks and crevices to roost in.

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“Bats are a European protected species – it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, catch or disturb bats or destroy their roosts, even if they are not present at the roosts all of the time. Trees should never be felled until a bat mitigation scheme has been submitted, which would include a survey to find out which trees contain or are likely to contain bats.

“Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust works to try and ensure that wildlife is taken into account in any housing development by monitoring planning applications and making comments where applicable. If bats are present or have been present and their roosts are still intact at the proposed development site near St Albans Girls School, there are legal implications for the developers as bats are a European Protected Species.”

Residents near the proposed site were last month invited to a public exhibition to view draft plans for Sewell Park, as the development would be known, comprising key worker housing, semi-detached and detached homes and sports facilities for St Albans Girls School.

An opposition group has been formed to fight the proposed development.