Royal Arthur Park (RAP) near Corsham in Wiltshire was formerly a Royal Naval Leadership School from 1939-1993 called H. M. S. Royal Arthur, but since this time has been left derelict and unmanaged. Applied Ecology Ltd was appointed as ecological advisor to help support an application for re-development of RAP as a continuing care community by Lunney Assets Corporation, and have been involved with the project since 2007.
All buildings within RAP (shown on the aerial photograph below) have been vandalised, partly destroyed and are subject to regular disturbance as a result of unauthorised public access. The site is a popular destination for graffiti artists, and the buildings are decorated with wide range of regularly changing artwork.
Extensive pre-application consultation was held between Applied Ecology Ltd, the County Ecologist and Natural England to agree the scope of ecological assessment required to support a planning application. The site occurs close to Box Mine Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – an important underground roosting site for bats – and the Bath and Bradford-on-Avon Bats Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Natural England were particularly concerned about the potential for the development to contribute to an adverse cumulative impact on the integrity of the SSSI and SAC as a number of other developments of military sites used by bats were taking place in the local area.
Ecology survey work was conducted by Applied Ecology Ltd over an entire “bat year” to enable a detailed understanding of the potential impact of the development on bats and other ecological receptors to be assessed. Following submission of the ecology survey and mitigation report, planning permission to re-develop the site as a continuing care retirement community was granted by North Wiltshire District Council with a number of conditions relating to protected species informed by our report.
Bat survey work conducted by Applied Ecology Ltd confirmed that buildings within the site supported a colony of lesser horseshoe bats, with bi-monthly total counts averaging 27 bats (range 11-38 – May-August 08). The colony consisted of non breeding bats roosting as singletons in dark former store rooms and water tank towers, and a maternity group of 22 adults and six juveniles making use of three buildings that offered warm draft free conditions. Non breeding greater horseshoe bats were also recorded making use of former store rooms for summer roosting (range 2-10).
Small summer roosts of Vespertilionidae bats were also present namely: common pipistrelle (three separate buildings holding 1, 1 and 2 bats respectively); brown long-eared bat (one building with 1 bat) and natterer’s bat (one building with 1 bat). Individual brown long-eared and Natterer’s bats were also seen using buildings as night roosts in the summer, and two lesser horseshoe bats and a single common pipistrelle were recorded hibernating in buildings during the winter.
Mitigation and compensation
Applied Ecology Ltd has recently applied for and obtained Natural England European Protected Species licences to legally enable the destruction of all existing bat roosts and great crested newt habitat within the site, and we are working with the developer to implement the agreed mitigation and compensation measures. With respect to bats, short term impacts relate to the potential for individual bats that might be roosting inside buildings to be injured or killed as a result of site clearance, with demolition also resulting in the permanent (long-term) loss of all existing bat roosts within the site.
As compensation for the loss of bat roosts, two dedicated bat buildings designed to be of value to horseshoe and crevice roosting vespertillionidae bats have been designed by Applied Ecology Ltd and will be constructed in advance of demolition taking place, and their use by bats monitored. Lessons learned from other horseshoe bat building projects in the UK were investigated by Applied Ecology Ltd, and the two buildings were designed to maximise their solar gain as well as replicating roost features found within the existing RAP buildings.
A bat friendly landscape and lighting strategy has also been designed to ensure that bats continue to use the operational site for roosting and foraging. Building demolition will be directed by Applied Ecology Ltd in their capacity as the licenced ecologist, and timed to avoid the summer maternity period.