Fears NDR Western Link could wipe out ‘largest barbastelle bat colony in UK’
- Credit: Charlotte Packman
The planned Western Link road would see construction through what is likely to be the largest known ‘super-colony’ of barbastelle bats in the UK, according to new independent surveys.
Norfolk County Council wants to build the controversial £153m road to connect the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) from the A1067 to the A47 near Easton.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has expressed concerns about the wildlife impacts of the chosen route, which would travel between Weston Longville and Ringland including a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum.
New surveys carried out by independent bat experts, Wild Wings Ecology, have now identified the presence of a breeding colony directly on the proposed new road, part of a wider ‘super-colony’ occupying surrounding woodlands in the local area.
Indications are that the barbastelle population here is likely to be the largest in the UK, with surveys identifying at least 270 bats.
Dr Charlotte Packman, the ecologist who identified the size and scale of the bat population, said: “Our research has led to the discovery of an extraordinary barbastelle ‘super-colony’, part of which would be directly cut through by the proposed Western Link and the remaining part substantially impacted by the road scheme.
“This is without doubt a nationally important area - quite possibly the most important area - in the country for this very rare species.
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“The destruction of barbastelle maternity colony woodlands is not permissible under wildlife laws and would be unprecedented.”
Norfolk County Council said the presence of barbastelle in the area had been a “significant consideration” in planning the Western Link, and would include measures including green bridges and underpasses to help bats cross the new road and improved foraging and roosting habitats.
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It said its own extensive bat surveys over the last two years had not recorded any barbastelle bat roosts within the scheme boundary.
A spokesman said: “We’re aware that bat surveys were carried out this summer by a third party surveyor but the results have not been shared with us yet – we have written to the lead surveyor to ask that they are as soon as possible.”
Mike Jones, conservation officer at the trust, said: “Bats are long-lived species with low birth rates, and there is a very real risk that these losses to the proposed road would lead to the local extinction of this species in the long-term, with consequent impacts on the future of the species nationally.”
The trust has now written directly to Baroness Vere, the Minister for Transport, requesting that the Department for Transport defers further consideration of funding for the scheme.