Published: 17:52, 22 September 2021
| Updated: 18:45, 22 September 2021
A man has been handed a £1,600 fine after deliberately destroying protected habitat for bats and newts, so he could develop his property.
David Pearce, of Four Oaks Road, Headcorn, pleaded guilty to damaging the homes of pipistrelle bats, brown long-eared bats and great crested newts.
It happened at a Headcorn address and the 56-year-old appeared at Maidstone Magistrates' Court earlier this month following an investigation by Kent Police's Rural Task Force.
In December 2019, he sought planning permission for a barn conversion.
As part of the planning process an ecology survey was carried out which concluded the barn was being used as both a day and hibernation roost by brown long-eared bats and pipistrelle bats.
Further examination of the site found that a disused swimming pool was being used as a breeding ground for great crested newts.
As the bats and newts are protected by law, the survey stressed the need for a Natural England European Protected Species Mitigation Licence to be obtained and any works to be carried out with a licenced bat handler present.
In respect of the newts, the survey concluded that there was a need for a receptor site, trapping and newt-proof fencing.
In March 2021, an ecologist working for the Bat Conservation Trust visited the site in response to a report of a grounded bat.
She became aware that works had begun on the barn, with the walls being removed and scaffolding erected resulting in the roost being used by the bats being destroyed.
Pearce was later interviewed and he admitted groundwork was carried out and the swimming pool had been drained, destroying the newts' habitat.
He was given a £1,600 fine after appearing in court, as well as being told to pay an extra £245 covering prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.
"It is likely that a number of these endangered species would have died as a result of the destruction of their habitat."
Sergeant Darren Walshaw, of the Rural Task Force, said: "It is disappointing that this individual developed the site despite being aware of the damage it would cause to the protected species living there.
"The building works should have been carried out under licence and supervised by specialist wildlife experts.
"It is likely that a number of these endangered species would have died as a result of the destruction of their habitat.
"We will not hesitate in taking action against those who show a blatant disregard for the regulations that are in place to protect endangered animals."