Locals slam police for leaving them ‘high and dry’ after force closes probe into housing developers who felled entire woodland that is home to protected bat species without warning
- Roughly 20 trees were chopped down in the one-acre plot Corfe Mullen, Dorset
Locals have slammed police for leaving them ‘high and dry’ after the force closed a probe into housing developers who felled an entire woodland that is home to a protected bat species without warning.
Villagers in Corfe Mullen, Dorset, were horrified when a team of workmen were tasked by a ruthless developer to chop down about 20 trees on a one-acre plot over the course of one day, in September.
Now residents are fuming after Dorset Police dropped their investigation into the woodland that was destroyed in 14 hours, citing insufficient evidence of wildlife crime.
The property, which has a large detached house with an acre of land, had belonged to an elderly widower who died last year and was bought by a housing developer.
The wooded garden was believed to have been an important wildlife haven for bats, owls and woodpeckers, but it was razed to the ground, without any notice by contractors.
A stark contrast can be seen in pictures from before the ruthless felling of the woodland after after
The land around the detached home has been left razed to the ground leaving behind a barren space of mud, splintered wood and stumps where there were once trees
No planning application had been submitted ahead of the work and it is believed the developers did not commission a bat and wildlife survey of the site before it was destroyed.
In the UK, all bat species and their roosts are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Anyone who intentionally or recklessly disturbs bats and their habitats is liable for prosecution.
Workmen arrived at 7am and took chainsaws to the mature pine, oak and ash trees, working until 9pm under floodlights to level the site.
Several neighbours complained about the work to the authorities, sparking a ‘multi-agency’ investigation led by Dorset Police.
The force said there was insufficient evidence to suggest any bats or other birds had been harmed, and ceased the investigation.
The residents have slammed them for leaving them ‘high and dry’ and letting developers get away with the ‘unethical behaviour’.
Gerrard Hayes, who said his fence was damaged when the contractors tried to cut down one of his trees by mistake, said: ‘They’ve just abandoned me and abandoned the whole thing. Unless I personally take out a prosecution against the owners of the land, I’m going nowhere.
‘They’re criminals and they appear to be getting away with it.’
Several stumps can be seen on the plot of land, severed clean by chainsaws following the destruction of the woodland
Gerrard Hayes (pictured) looks at the barren wasteland filled with brambles that has been left behind after contractors hacked away at the wildlife haven
Local resident Jackie Bonham (pictured), 55, is calling for automatic planning refusal and fines for developers who destroy habitat
He said one of his 60ft trees now looks ‘lethal’ without the protection of other woodland and the remainder of his fence has been destroyed by strong winds.
Jackie Bonham, 55, is calling for automatic planning refusal and fines for developers who destroy habitat.
She said: ‘The only way to stop this unethical behaviour from continuing is if developers are not seeing a path to planning consent being granted by clearing sites in order to avoid biodiversity surveys which could identify protected species and curtail building.
‘Destruction of habitat should automatically result in refusal of planning consent as well as fines imposed to mitigate the damage.
‘Planting whips does not constitute replacement of a hundred-year-old tree either.
The wooded garden was believed to have been an important wildlife haven for bats, owls and woodpeckers (Pictured: A woodpecker that would have used the woodland as its natural habitat)
Gerrard Hayes said his fence was damaged when the contractors tried to cut down one of his trees by mistake
Barely a patch of green can be seen on what was once a wildlife haven but razed to the ground, leaving behind a bald, muddy plot
‘Developers should be named and shamed for this behaviour and conversely incentivised with a nationally recognised award scheme to deliver projects that are sustainable and work with the natural environment not against it.’
A spokesperson for Dorset Police said: ‘A multi-agency investigation was carried out, involving Dorset Police, Natural England, the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Dorset Council and Forestry Commission.
‘Extensive enquiries were carried out, which found insufficient evidence a wildlife crime had been committed.
‘Therefore, the police investigation into the suspected bat roost has concluded and no further action will be taken.
‘An investigation is continuing by the Forestry Commission into the felling of the trees.’
Source: Read Full Article