The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning department is coming under increasing pressure to enforce an immediate halt to ground works and tree felling on the site of controversial 30-apartment Northcliff Lodge development off Paget Place, Penarth.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour St Augustines) says “It seems clear that serious offences under the wildlife protection legislation are being committed and that the Vale as responsible authority are duty bound to act with all urgency to prevent further breaches of the law. I would expect officers to take immediate action to prevent further hard felling and wood chipping of possibly inhabited branches etc. and to take steps to prosecute the developers who are choosing to ignore their responsibilities.”
The matter has been referred to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning department by the chairman of the Vale Planning Committee Cllr Ben Gray (Conservative St Augustines)
Concerns have arisen following a report of bats – a protected species – being sighted in the vicinity of Northcliff Lodge by a local resident, who has made a statement to the police.
The Northcliff Lodge developers had originally told the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee in September 2017 that a survey which they had commissioned had indicated there were no bats on the site
It was on the basis of that re-assurance – given by the developers – that planning permission for the development of 30 new apartments was agreed by the planning committee.
However in that planning committee meeting the distinguished environmentalist Dr Max Wallis raised concerns about the adequacy of the bat survey commissioned by the developers and said that contrary to the assertions of the developers, bats were “abundant” in the area of Northcliff Lodge.
The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s principal planning officer Stephen Butler however re-iterated however that no bat roost had been found at Northcliff Lodge.
However at that same meeting Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour St Augustines) had raised a number of sharp questions about the development and had said that the developer’s “bat survey” had been conducted at the beginning of the animals’ hibernation period.
The bat issue had also been raised at the meeting by Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour Stanwell) who said she had concerns “over the potential bat population” at Northcliff Lodge and had seen high levels of bat activity when standing on one of the balconies of the existing 1970s Northcliff flats development. Cllr Burnett made the point that bats were not easy to spot and said it was therefore necessary to have proper in-depth long-term surveys carried out at the Northcliff Lodge site to establish bat presence.
Now it seems the caveats about Northcliff Lodge bats which were expressed (but dismissed) at the September 2017 planning committee meeting, are coming home to roost. The sequence of events is now as follows:-
On December 17th 2017 an alleged “crime” was reported to South Wales Police by one of a number of concerned local residents [ i.e. development in an area inhabited by bats] and an official crime number – 1700490365 – was issued. A spokesman for South Wales Police has told PDN “We have been made aware of concerns and the matter is being looked into.”
On December 21 2017 a local resident Emma Perry notified South Wales Police that the previous day (December 20th at 14:15) a bat had been sighted at the “Northcliffe Estate” [ i.e. Northcliff Lodge] . She told the police in a statement that – using a “Magenta Bat 5 Digital precision bat detector) Mk5 v1.0” she had seen a “single bat flying between the trees that border our boundary with Northcliff Lodge and down to the second block of Dyfed”.[ A section of the 1970s vintage apartment development at the cliff top] . Ms Perry said “The bat flew straight back and forth and was not swooping but just flying straight”. She said the bat detector was on and it “recorded a single bat with pitch of 45.2 Khz. This was not a fleeting glance but a sighting that lasted for at least 45 seconds if not more.” Ms Perry asked the police to look into this and said she would be prepared to stand in court to affirm her evidence.
On December 22nd 2017 it is alleged by Dr Max Wallis that a Vale of Glamorgan Council enforcement officer “disregarded” the information given to the police. Dr Wallis claims that the enforcement officer “decided not to take enforcement action despite observing ‘hard felling’ from the ground that breaches the “soft felling” in Condition 13 of the development consent. ”
….However a few days later this stance appeared to have changed
On December 29th 2017 The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning department issued an Enforcement Investigation Notice on the developers of Northcliff Lodge with regard to “Condition 13 ” of the planning permission in relation to bats living in the area.
At 10:24 on January 2 2018 (yesterday) on behalf of Barry and Vale Friends of the Earth, Dr Wallis emailed Debbie Marles, the head of legal services at the Vale of Glamorgan Council – giving her the background to the issue and reminding her that it is the responsibility of the council to “require a stop to the disturbance of bats and probable destruction of bat roosts, pending a possible licence from NRW ” [ the Welsh Government Environmental regulator].
At 18:00 on January 2 2018 Cllr Neil Thomas wrote an email to the Vale of Glamorgan Council planning chairman Cllr Ben Gray saying “It seems clear that serious offences under the wildlife protection legislation are being committed and that the Vale as responsible authority are duty bound to act with all urgency to prevent further breaches of the law. I would expect officers to take immediate action to prevent further hard felling and wood chipping of possibly inhabited branches etc. And to take steps to prosecute the developers who are choosing to ignore their responsibilities.”
At 18:31 on January 2 2018 the local resident who had sighted a bat – Emma Perry – also emailed Vale planning chairman Cllr Ben Gray urging that an immediate stop be placed on the Northcliff Lodge development work. She said that “The developers were at work between Christmas and New Year”
At 19:11 on January 2 2018 Cllr Ben Gray – chairman of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee – replied to Ms Perry’s email saying he had already forwarded Cllr Thomas’s email on to the planning department for their consideration.
It remains to be seen whether any work will be carried out on the site today January 3rd 2018