Property developer fined £600,000 for demolishing a protected bat habitat

A residential housebuilding company has received the largest ever fine issued for a wildlife crime after it knowingly destroyed a protected bat habitat in Greenwich.

Bellway Homes pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court after a complex police investigation found the company carried out demolition works at Artillary Place, Woolwich despite being aware of the presence of Soprano Pipistrelle bats.

The property giant was ordered by the court to pay a fine of £600,000 plus further costs of over £30,000.

Inspector David Hawtin of the Greenwich Safer Neighbourhoods Team said: “Bellway Homes has admitted responsibility for this and I hope it reinforces the message that this legislation is there for a reason and should be adhered too.

“The success of this case has been the result of diligent investigation by Sergeant Simon Henderson and PC Giles Balistine, two officers based on the South East BCU.” 

Bellway Homes: A brand in the spot light for the wrong reasons

The details of the case highlight the challenges local authority planning departments face in controlling the compliance of development sites and the vulnerability of animal habitat.

Bellway Homes, a FTSE 250 company, were aware that the presence of bats had been documented at the site in 2017.

They were notified by the planning team at the local council that they would need to obtain the appropriate mitigation and a Natural England European Protected Licence in advance of works commencing.

However, on 3rd December 2018 police were notified by The Royal Borough of Greenwich’s planning department that demolition works had started regardless.

Police substantiated the claims with Natural England, who confirmed no such licence was applied for by Bellway Homes for the specific development project.

The local authority planning officer for the site also acknowledged an attempt was previously made by Bellway Homes to remove that particular aspect of the planning requirements, which was never granted.

The investigating officers from the South East Command Unit sought advice from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit.

Following an investigation, the company was formally charged on 19 November 2019.

The offence was: “Between 17th March 2018 and 17th August 2018 Bellway Homes, damaged or destroyed a breeding site or resting place of a wild animal of a European protected species, namely bats, Typical (all species) Vespertilionidae.”

The housing developer, who generated a pre-tax profit of £662.6 million in 2019, also agreed in court to make a voluntary donation of £20,000 to the Bat Conservation Trust.

Bat Conservation Trust: Working to secure the future of bats in an ever changing world

Following the legal case against Bellway Homes, a five star rated developer by the national Home Builders Federation (HBF), the company will now once again be in the media spotlight for the wrong reasons.

An investigation by BBC Watchdog live in May 2019 reported Bellway Homes was building its properties with “potentially dangerous fire safety issues”.

All bats within the UK are European Protected Species, the Woodland Trust advises their biggest potential threats include the loss of old buildings for roosting.

For more information on bats visit or

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