Bats won’t stop flats

Hopes that roosting bats might save Russell House from the bulldozer have dashed after a report recommended the 115 year-old building could be demolished if bat boxes were erected.

Eastleigh Borough council now face the planning inspector at an appeal this Tuesday rejected a planning application from builders Churchill for 35 retirement flats on the site

The Victorian building that fronts Romsey Road was until recently used by Hampshire County Council social services.

The proposed Block of flats would be adjacent to an existing block (Fairholm Court) and another similar development by McCarthy & Stone nearby (Catherine Court) is nearing completion.

During the planning hearing last November both independent and Lib Dem councillors on the Local Area Committee  spoke out against the plan and followed planning advice to refuse it on no less than 10 separate grounds –  criticising the design, size, parking, sustainability and location.

Affordability

The council were also disappointed that the developers had not made adequate provision for affordable housing.

Current EBC policy is that only 65% of any development over 15 dwellings should be unaffordable.

The developers insisted that in this particular case the arrangement was unviable and used case law to argue that their development should be 100% unaffordable and launched their appeal

The council also took into account the findings of a bat survey to argue that the development would mean the destruction of the little critters hideout.

Bat shit crazy

A report into bat activity on the quarter of an acre site – published after the planning meeting – recounted how a team of bat boffins had explored the labyrinthine loft space hunting for bat droppings or to see if they could spot any bats dangling from the rafters but found no droppings or nests or bats – but plenty of cracks and holes where bats could be roosting – which led to a planning objection.

The team later staked out the building car park for four nights at dusk and dawn using sensitive bat detection equipment but only saw one common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) on two of the nights entering or leaving.

Bat survey at Russell House August 2011

The team also heard the squeak of a noctule nearby and the brief plaintive cry of a solitary soprano pipistrelle as it foraged in the gardens of Newtown.

Batty u-turn

Subsequent to the council’s refusal and the publication of the full bat survey EBC’s bio-diversity officer removed her objection to the flats provided Russell House – which is also a home to nesting sparrows- was not demolished during the bat hibernation period; that bat boxes were erected in the remaining trees  and bat entry points on the building were provided by the developers.

Tweeting on the appeal Cllr Chris Thomas, Chair of the local area committee, said:

“The application was turned down by EBC on valid planning grounds”

Adding that the appeal will “be interesting as planning law has changed”

The planning appeal, which is open to the public, will be at the Civic Offices on Tuesday May 22 at 10 am.

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  2 comments for “Bats won’t stop flats

  1. Stephen Slominski
    May 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Shortly after the surveys were taken a neighbour’s moggy dragged a pipistrelle through the cat flap so that might have taken care of that particular ‘problem.’
    We are paring away at available natural habitat in Eastleigh Town Centre.
    This development will see trees lost if allowed to go ahead – accross the road the point extension claimed mature trees and now the council wants Sainsburys to build an ‘out of town’ style hypermarket in the centre of town taking 47 trees and nearly 6,000sq ft of park with it.

  2. mm
    Matthew Myatt
    May 21, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I find it incredible and unbelievable that a council that claims to be “Tackling Climate Change” can allow a single tree to be felled in the Borough.

    Trees are fundamental to climate change. They soak up vast amounts of CO2 at ground level and release oxygen back into the air. Removing trees from areas where large volumes of cars pump out toxic fumes will only increase poor air quality destroy nesting habitat and have a dramatic effect on public open spaces and public well being.

    Don’t take my word for it, go to Southampton and take a deep breath on a warm sunny day and you will see just what I mean.

    It takes 60 years for a tree to mature to the point where is can have great benefit to local air quality and I am sick to death of this councils nonsense when it says, “don’t worry; we will replace the cut down trees with three new ones.”

    Yet they just do not seem to get It.! You would have to plant twelve 5 year old trees to replace one 60 year old tree, or plant 3 new trees and wait 12 years before the trees would even come close to absorbing the same levels of CO2.

    Stop cutting down bloody trees EBC, if you really are serious about “Tackling Climate Change”.

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