The Forest of Dean is an area of European importance for bats. Most of our British species are present and make good use of the habitat of woodland, woodland edge, grazing and forest “waste”. Another important feature is the presence of many disused mines and the Wye valley caves which provide ideal hibernating conditions for many of these flying mammals.
The old colliery buildings at Northern United, together with a purpose-built roost building, provide a home to a colony of rare lesser horseshoe bats. This species is endangered through much of its European range and the Forest of Dean and lower Wye valley is acknowledged to be one of their strongholds. Natural England has notified a number of sites as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and these have also been designated as a “Special Area of Conservation” (SAC) under European Wildlife Laws.
Horseshoe bats have some very specific requirements. The lesser horseshoe bats, together with the closely related greater horseshoe which is also present on the site, hate light and crossing open spaces. The proposed new ‘A Class’ street-lit Spine Road across the site is therefore of special concern since it is to be routed between the maternity SSSI standard roost buildings and their main identified insect feeding grounds, to the west.
Apart from horseshoe bats, other rare species present include both Barbastelle and Bechstein’s bats. The abundance of species seems to be intrinsically linked to the ecosystem of highly diverse plant and insect life, the ponds and wet areas and the surrounding woodland. The proposed development will destroy habitat and this balance and simply cannot be satisfactorily mitigated for. It will be to the great detriment of a wide range of species, including the 14 species of bat currently using the site.
Bat Species recorded UK EU
Lesser horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros Rare EU (VU)
Greater Horseshoe Rhinolophus ferrum equinum Rare EU (VU)
Barbastelle Barbastella barbastellus Very rare EU (VU)
Bechstein’s Myotis bechsteinii Very rare EU (VU)
Natterer’s Myotis nattereri
Daubenton Myotis daubentonii
Whiskered Myotis mystacinus
Brandts Myotis brandtii
Leisler’s Nyctalus leisleri Rare
Noctule Nyctalus noctula
Serotine Eptesicus serotinus Uncommon
Brown long-eared Plecotus auritus
Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus