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Concern rare bat roosts may have vanished since NDR was built

PUBLISHED: 14:03 18 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:06 18 October 2019

Barbastelle bat. Pic by Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

Barbastelle bat. Pic by Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

Concerns have been raised that "significant" roosts of some of the UK's rarest bats may have vanished since the Norwich Northern Distributor Road was built.

The NDR (Broadland Northway). Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe NDR (Broadland Northway). Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Monitoring of barbastelle bats since construction of the £205m road showed there were "numerous roosts" in the Lenwade area - to such an extent it could merit designation as being of national importance.

But previously identified 'hot spots' at Felthorpe and Rackheath seem to have disappeared, with attempts to trap bats in those areas failing to land any female barbastelles.

A report published by Mott MacDonald, the organisation contracted to build the NDR by Norfolk County Council, details the results of radio tracking and bat trapping surveys.

Almost 260 bats were caught during 14 surveys, with 31 barbastelles trapped at five of 13 sites during May, June and August 2018.

The report states it was not intended to be a comprehensive study, with the main focus to trap barbastelles for radio-tagging.

It stressed that surveys were limited and not comparable with pre-construction surveys.

However, even with the "limited trapping efforts" in Rackheath and Felthorpe, partly because a landowner would not grant access, the report said it was "concerning" that just one male barbastelle and no females were found there.

The Mott MacDonald report said: "Whilst the trapping surveys by no means rule out the presence of barbastelle in these areas, if they were still abundant we would have expected to have trapped some individuals."

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They said it was difficult to directly attribute that to the NDR, given other large-scale housing developments have been built in the area, but recommended acoustic surveys to establish if those colonies still exist.

Martin Wilby, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said he was pleased barbastelles had been recorded in such high numbers at Lenwade.

He said: "As researchers suggest further detailed acoustic survey work would provide more information on barbastelle activity in the area near Rackheath and Felthorpe, this will be done as part of the planned monitoring programme which will help to build a clearer picture over the coming years."

Opponents of the mooted Northern Distributor Road Western Link, previously criticised the council for deciding a preferred route before bat surveys in the area were complete.

Iain Robinson, who owns woodland on the route of that proposed, had a Freedom Of Information request to Norfolk County Council for details of those surveys refused.

The council gave a series of reasons for refusal,

The first was that, because it had commissioned a company to carry out a survey and provide a report, the council did "not believe" the raw data was its property to provide.

They then said, even if it was the council's property, it would cost too much to retrieve it and said publishing the precise movements of the bats could put them at risk.

The cabinet's preferred route is for a £153m road from the A1057 to the A47, running halfway between Weston Longville and Ringland.

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