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Torfaen Council fails to follow bat protection laws

A general view of the entrance to Cwmffrwdoer Primary School in Pontnewynydd, Pontypool (Pic: Google Street View)

A NEW classroom with bat roosts above it is to be built in a school’s grounds as a result of a council ignoring laws to protect the species. 

Torfaen Borough Council admitted it was guilty of failings under environmental legislation by harming bat roosts as a result of work carried out to the roof at Cwmffrwdoer Primary School in Pontnewynydd, Pontypool.   

The council escaped prosecution through the courts after making the admission and accepting a “community resolution” which contains tough requirements to ensure it now follows the law.   

That has included compensating for the loss of the roosts by providing a new bat house in the roof covering the new classroom. 

It will include a tower on the south-eastern corner to provide a cooler area for bats to migrate around the building if the roof space becomes too hot. A loose block ‘chimney’ would be constructed in the tower to form a small cold tower for bats. This structure would also offer potential hibernation roosts for bats. 

The loft space will include boarded areas for crevice dwelling bats and hot boxes within the ridge while materials suitable for bats have been specified after inappropriate coating was previously used. 

The building will be covered with larch cladding, and wooden pegs between the boards will allow bats to open gaps for roosting beneath them. 

When it is confirmed the new bat house is being used existing bat entry points at the school will be sealed up under guidance from environmental body Natural Resources Wales. 

Torfaen Borough Council planning officer Simon Pritchard stated in a report that approved the application: “The proposed scheme would provide acceptable bat mitigation and would be an improvement to existing education facilities.” 

A European Protected Species Licence is required from the Welsh Government for the new classroom. The council’s failure to follow the terms of the previous licence, granted for the replacement of the school roof in 2017 and 2018, when further work was carried out between 2019 and 2021, led to the council being investigated by Natural Resources Wales and its specialist wildlife crime police officer. 

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The community resolution only came to light as a result of the planning application.

In April this year a spokeswoman for Natural Resources Wales said: “The local authority admitted their guilt and received a community resolution with strict terms to alter their practices and to ensure that they carry out future building works correctly, with ecological support, the support of Species Licencing, and in accordance with European Protected Species legislation.”   

Anyone ignoring the protections can be fined up to £5,000 for every affected bat and even imprisoned.

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