PLANS for a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Newport have been refused in a bid to protect bats, which could be roosting at the property.
Local authorities are legally obligated to determine the impact a development will have on a protected species, such as bats, prior to granting permission.
The five-bedroom HMO was proposed to go on the upper floors of 10 Clarence Place, with the ground floor soon to be occupied by a sports bar.
The grade II listed building, next to the Arts College, has been vacant for the past four years.
At a planning committee meeting on Wednesday June 7 members were told that the applicant had failed to conduct a bat survey, which was requested by the ecology officer.
Planning officer Joanne Davidson said: “It’s a small hurdle to cross but the applicant has indicated that they don’t want to cross it.”
Ms Davidson said the officers were happy with the remainder of the application, but added: “We’re just missing that one element which is rather critical.”
Beth Carter of Kew Planning, who was representing the applicant, said the bat survey had only been requested by officers two days before the application was expected to be “approved”.
But, council officers maintained that the applicant was told about the bat survey at the pre-application stage.
Labour councillor Gavin Horton – who represents the Victoria ward where the application was proposed – said there had been “admin issues and a lack of communication” between the council and the applicant.
Cllr Horton supported the application, and said it should be the “blueprint” for future HMO applications.
Independent councillor Jason Jordan questioned if the application could be deferred to allow the applicant time to do the bat survey.
Senior planning officer Andrew Ferguson said: “Members can decide to defer the application if they wish. However, from pre-application stage officers made it clear this would be required.”
Labour councillor Stephen Cocks, who represents Caerleon, said the council needed to set a precedent. He added: “We do take these obligations very seriously, and with all due respect it doesn’t seem like an impossible hurdle to get over.”
The officers’ recommendation for refusal was unanimously supported by the committee members.
Labour councillor Allan Screen, who represents Tredegar Park and Marshfield, said: “I couldn’t vote for something which would mean we were breaking the law.”