Controversial East Budleigh bat barn plan deferred
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Campaigners fighting the proposed demolition of a known bat habitat in East Budleigh have been given ‘breathing space’.
More than 20 members of a conservation group gathered outside Exmouth Town Hall this morning (Tuesday, February 12) ahead of a crucial meeting to decide the fate of an East Budleigh barn known to be home to rare and protected bats.
East Devon District Council’s development management committee decided to defer their decision pending additional information from Natural England about wildlife mitigation on the site.
Landowner Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) is looking to knock down the barn and build a new dwelling on the site and has offered to build a separate ‘bat barn’ on the plot as mitigation.
Speaking after the meeting, Karen Alexander-Clarke, secretary of the East Budleigh Parish Conservation Group told The Journal this decision gives them ‘breathing space’ in their fight to protect the bats’ home.
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She also said they would be writing to Natural England to lobby them and ‘emphasise that there are councillors that feel as strongly as we do’.
Speaking at the meeting, councillor Brian Bailey also raised concerns over whether the bats would take to their new home.
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He said: “The bats, I feel, have been served poorly because there is no guarantee what so ever that the bats will survive the demolition or would accept their new home.”
Cllr Geoff Jung said: “This is one house and one family that is going to benefit and how many bats and other wildlife are going to benefit?”
An independent ecology report commissioned by the council recommended that the mitigation being offered by CDE be accepted.
Cllr Mark Williamson said he did not feel confident that, if they refused the application and CDE appealed, the Planning Inspectorate would back their original decision.
He said: “As we do frequently, we would look to our statutory consultees to guide us.
“Natural England is giving quite detailed guidance and they recommend the planning authority follow advice from the ecologist.”
Councillors voted in favour of deferring the application pending information from Natural England on the suitability of the proposed ‘bat barn’.