Builder driven batty by planners’ homes rejection lodges appeal

Sunday 8th May 2022 6:00 am

Longhope primary school. Pic: Jonathan Billinger/Geograph

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A DEVELOPER has lodged an appeal after a colony of lesser horseshoe bats scuppered its bid to build four new homes on the site of an old school playground.

Colburn Homes wants to build the houses off Old School Lane in Longhope, but was refused permission by the Forest Council because more than 320 of the protected bats roost at the neighbouring Old Rectory Care Home.

The planners said it was a “critical bat roost” linked to the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Bat Site Special Area of Conservation.

And turning the scheme down last summer, they ruled: “The application site is used as an area of foraging habitat, which is particularly important for juvenile bats.

“The development of the site will result in a net loss of critical foraging habitat, resulting in an adverse effect on integrity.

“The proposed development poses a severe risk to the maternity bat roost for lesser horseshoe bats and it is considered that the application fails to demonstrate that the proposal would not adversely affect the integrity of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Bat SAC.”

Twenty three new homes are already being built in the grounds of the former Church of England primary, which closed in 2003 and has been converted into two homes, while planning permission which has now lapsed was granted 10 years ago for six new homes on the playground area.

The recent application said: “The four dwellings off School Lane form a standalone development which is effectively a rounding off of the lane…

“Given the location immediately adjacent to existing residential development and the recent approval for 23 houses on the adjacent site, it is not thought that the proposals will have any negative impact on the greater landscape as a whole, but will just be viewed as part of the village.

“The creation of a landscaped green corridor giving wildlife access to the new orchard being created on land to the south east will we believe have a positive impact both visually and ecologically.”

A report by ecological consultant and licensed bat surveyor Anton Kattan on behalf of Colburn Homes’ appeal claims the foraging area used by bats within the site is a very small percentage of its habitat within the core zone of the Old Rectory Care Home roost.

And he says “adequate mitigation” measures can be taken to protect the bats, such as a lighting plan that protects dark flight corridors on School Lane and a hedgerow with trees.

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