Thursday, 20 January 2011
Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Question 196: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of Moore Hall in County Mayo; if this building and site are protected; the length of time that protection status extends; if recent reports have been undertaken to assess the bat population at the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3116/11]
Moore Hall is a country house of substantial size located south of Ballinrobe and is regarded as an important component of the late eighteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Mayo. Mayo County Council designated the building as a Protected Structure in 2003 under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Moore Hall is also a candidate Special Area of Conservation because it is an important site for the Lesser Horseshoe Bat, a species listed on Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive as requiring the designation of SACs.
All bats and their roosting and resting places are protected under the Wildlife Acts and the EU Habitats Directive. It is an offence to kill or to deliberately disturb bats or to destroy their breeding sites. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department have undertaken a number of bat surveys over the years and identified lesser horseshoe bats in both the cellars of Moore Hall, which are used as a winter roost by the bats, and the adjacent coach house which is used as a nursery roost where the bats rear their young.
As a result of the declining number of bats in the coach house in 2009 due to the deteriorating nature of the coach house roof, the Department carried out refurbishment work to the coach house in 2010. As a consequence of this work the decline in the number of bats in the coach house has since been reversed. My Department has also fitted protective grills to the cellar access points in the main house, with the assistance of the Office of Public Works, in order to protect the bats at this location and to prevent unauthorised access to the winter roost.
Question 197: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the responsibility if any he has in relation to ensuring that bat surveys are carried out in areas of land owned by a local authority where it is planned to construct storage facilities adjoining mature trees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3166/11]
All bats and their roosting and resting places are protected under the Wildlife Acts and the EU Habitats Directive. It is an offence to kill or to deliberately disturb bats or to destroy their breeding sites. My Department has published guidelines which provide advice on how developments should comply with the legislation protecting bats. These Bat Mitigation Guidelines have been widely circulated, including to local authorities, and can also be accessed on the website of the National Parks & Wildlife Service of my Department. The Bat Mitigation Guidelines contain detailed advice on when and how bat surveys should be conducted, including information on tree surveying.
Applications may be made to my Department for a derogation licence to permit actions affecting bats or their roosts that would normally be prohibited by law. The applicant must demonstrate that there is no satisfactory alternative and that the action will not adversely affect the favourable conservation status of the bats. Each case is considered having regard to its particular circumstances and an application may be refused.