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Think of bats, barn owls and newts with your building plans

This is an archived press release

Friday 2 December 2005

2 December 2005

Think of bats, barn owls and newts with your building plans

Costly building delays caused by the unexpected discovery of threatened wildlife should be a thing of the past in the Peak District National Park.

The National Park Authority's planning department is taking a national lead in encouraging building developers to consider endangered species right at the start of their planning applications.

Protected species such as bats, barn owls, water voles - even great crested newts - are safeguarded from harm by law because of the threats that they face. The National Park Authority is now asking developers to check for possible habitats when they make their planning application - rather than leaving it till later when an unexpected finding could cause disruption.

Some sites may require an independent wildlife survey to accompany the application.

These include:
* listed buildings
* pre-1939 houses, barns or other traditional buildings
* big complexes such as schools, pubs, hospitals, offices
* bridges, chimneys, quarries, mine shafts
* any work involving disturbance to trees, hedges, scrub, rivers and riverbanks, streams, canals, lakes, ponds.

The wildlife survey - paid for by the applicant and carried out by an independent consultant - will identify any protected species, and what avoiding measures are needed.

This should help the planning committee to make a speedier decision. However, it is keen to point out that the presence of protected wildlife does not necessarily mean the application will be rejected. Work may have to be put off until after the breeding season, or certain parts of the site left undisturbed, as long as the wildlife is accommodated.

National Park director of conservation and development John Lomas emphasised: "The presence of a protected species need not detrimentally affect the potential to gain planning permission. Applicants may have to make some changes to their initial plans or apply for a licence to allow works to proceed, but in the majority of cases, protected species can be accommodated within development proposals."

Ecology manager Rhodri Thomas added: "Although the procedures will affect less than five per cent of planning applications we receive, they will help ensure these threatened species continue to thrive in the Peak District. They will also help developers by ensuring they are not breaching wildlife law, and avoiding costly delays if protected species are found after work starts."

The National Park Authority's requirements and guidance are now being looked on as a potential model for other planning authorities throughout the country. The Association of Local Government Ecologists has said the Peak District's was the best application of wildlife protection planning law that it has seen.

Applicants can find out more on the National Park Authority website, www.peakdistrict.org/pubs/planning/species/protected-species.pdf or by phoning 01629 816200.

This is an archived press release

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