East Devon councillors have agreed to redouble efforts to protect bats at Beer Quarry Caves.
The attraction is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.
Ecologists have noted how it is an internationally-important site for nature conservation and home to large populations of hibernating greater horseshoe bats, lesser horseshoe bats and Bechstein’s bats.
All three species are in decline.
Greater horseshoe bats are one of Britain’s rarest bats and have ‘near-threatened’ status.
The Bechstein’s bat is one of the rarest bats in western Europe and one of the UK’s rarest mammals.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) has recognised the international ecological value of the site and representatives have committed to ongoing maintenance of the conservation status of the species.
Councillor Mike Howe, who represents the Clyst Valley, fully supported the actions and said: “Having dealt with numerous issues over bats as my chair of planning for many years, it’s good to see some forward thinking and some forward action.
“So I wholeheartedly commend this and move that we accept the recommendation wholeheartedly.”
Cllr Jess Bailey, West Hill and Aylesbeare ward member, wanted to see even more action – including for bat protection to be included in every planning application.
“What I’d really, really like to see – and I’ve been kind of going on about this for a while – is really clear guidance for all applicants, all planning applications, screening so that people are really clear on what service they need to do and when they need to do them,” she said.
Cllr Geoff Jung, who represents Woodbury and Lympstone, said the rules should go further and be included in the long-term Local Plan.
“There’s no point in building a whole estate and then realising that we’ve spoiled the flight path of these bats,” he said.
“I would like to see it within the Local Plan that these pinch points are protected.”
‘Pinch points’ are potential, commuting routes which are restricted, for example, due to urban encroachment or proximity to the sea or estuaries.
Cllr Bailey backed the idea of including bat protection in the Local Plan and said: “Guidance is great, but we don’t want it to be overridden. So, yes, please … in the Local Plan.”
Councillors agreed to monitoring progress and to introduce follow-up measures.