A LANDOWNER who inadvertently destroyed a bat roost by demolishing a disused filling station appeared before magistrates today (Thursday, July 10).

Katherine Hannah, prosecuting at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court, said Savva Antonis Roberts had given permission for the building, on land at Westgate in Weardale, County Durham, to be knocked down in March, despite lacking the appropriate licence.

Magistrates heard the filling station was a breeding site of the Pipistrelle bat, a protected species, although no animals were roosting at the time.

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Roberts, 44, of Highclere Drive, Ryhope, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to destroying a breeding site of a wild animal of a European protected species.

Gerry Armstrong, mitigating, said it was an unusual charge, with his extensive research only identifying two other cases in the country.

He said Roberts, who works in the transport industry, was a responsible landowner who had made a mistake on this occasion.

“There were no bats roosting at the time,” he said. “It was a resting place for bats which had been there many years before.

“As soon as the builders found the carcasses, he looked for ways to rebuild the roosting spot.

“Unfortunately, it was too late. He then contacted all of the relevant agencies and has been apologetic and co-operative throughout.”

Roberts was fined £185 and ordered to pay court costs of £85 and a £20 victim surcharge.