‘BATMAN’ has saved the day in Hampton-in-Arden, rescuing several rare species of bat from a rogue developer.
West Midlands Police’s Wildlife Crime Officer, PC Andy ‘Batman’ Timmins, has been praised by wildlife groups for saving an endangered colony from the rafters of a £1 million mansion set for demolition.
The bats – including the rare Natterer’s bats, Soprano Pipistrelles and Brown Long-Eared bats – had been found roosting in a loft space of the Eastcote Lane mansion following an ecological survey in 2012.
The property owner was told that a protected species licence, outlining conditions designed to protect animals and encourage their safe migration, was needed before any work could start.
But when a a builder reported finding a bat under a roof tile in June last year, PC Timmins discovered the developer – 51-year-old Habib Nazir from Small Heath – had ignored the instruction and failed to notify architects, contractors or builders of the bats’ presence.
Mr Nazir was interviewed on suspicion of flouting the Conservation of Habitats & Species Regulations Act – namely damaging the resting place of an endangered species.
But he was spared prosecution after apologising and agreeing to build dedicated ‘bat lofts’ and bat ‘tree houses’ into his plans.
PC Timmins said: “Nazir thought he could run roughshod over wildlife law and was all set to rip out the property: there were rolls of loft insulation stacked up ready to be laid which clearly meant the bats’ nests would have been destroyed.
“He admitted leaving all the contractors working on the project in the dark but thankfully one roofer spotted a bat, appreciated the implications, and alerted the Bat Conservation Trust.”
Carrying out construction work that may affect wildlife without the relevant licences has lead to a maximum six months jail term and an unlimited fine.
“The property owner apologised for his actions and has now spent a considerable amount of money to ensure the bats’ habitat will be protected,” PC Timmins added.
The Eastcote Lane mansion had been earmarked for renovation into a three-storey property having been bought for £1-million in 2005.
Bat Conservation Trust investigator, Pete Charleston, said the charity was grateful for PC Timmins’ hard work.
He said: “Bat populations in the UK have declined considerably over the last century which is why they are protected by law.
“Bats play an essential part in the natural world and are indicators of a healthy environment; their future is directly linked to our quality of life and the quality of our environment.
“Bat Conservation Trust works to ensure that bat conservation is acknowledged as an integral part of sustainable development.”
PC Timmins is one of a handful of Wildlife Officers in West Midlands Police who divide their time between more familiar police duties and protecting livestock, birds and wild animals.
In the past few years he has investigated cases of deer poaching and birds’ egg theft, raised awareness of ‘sheep worrying’ and promoted responsible dog walking near farm fields.
He also created a Farm Watch group to share information among the farming community, alert members to any emerging crime trends they need to be aware of, and to help tackle rural crime.