With bulldozers booked and ready to move on to the site, residents opposed to the destruction of the Good Companions at Hamsey Green have recruited the help of a bat man to save the old pub from destruction.
Legal notices have been served on the demolition company and on Lidl, the German chain which wants to build a supermarket on the site, requiring them to conduct an environmental impact survey before work can begin. This includes a full survey of the local bat population by a qualified expert – a bat man…
The presence of a colony of a protected species of bats in the vicinity could halt the work indefinitely, local campaigners hope.
There was much activity at the pub last night, with lights on into the early hours and police present.
Residents are planning a vigil, armed with video cameras and other recording devices, in case the contractors seek to move on to the site over the weekend, without having obtained any clearance for demolition work.
The residents are relying on a court ruling from 2009, which clarifies the local authority’s responsibilities when determining a planning application for a development which may have an impact on European Protected Species such as bats, great crested newts, dormice or otters.
The species protection provisions of the Habitats Directive, as implemented by the Conservation (Natural Habitats Etc.) Regulations 1994, contain three “derogation tests” which must be applied by Natural England when deciding whether to grant a licence to a person carrying out an activity which would harm a protected species. For development activities this licence is normally obtained after planning permission has been granted.
The three tests are that:
- the activity to be licensed must be for imperative reasons of overriding public interest or for public health and safety – clearly not the case over the destruction of a pub and building of a supermarket.
- there must be no satisfactory alternative – there are strong arguments that retaining the existing building is just such an alternative.
- favourable conservation status of the species must be maintained.
Clearly, in the case where a developer wants to knock down an old pub and replace it with a vast supermarket, considerable work would need to be done at great expense by the developers to fulfil the third possibility before work could begin, further frustrating Lidl’s ambitions for the site.
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