Well meaning laws sometimes have unintended consequences, which entirely defeat their intended purpose. We had a splendid example of this this week when 25 pensioners, some in their 80’s, lost their jobs at Longleat because their employers were worried that they would lose the right to dismiss them when a new law comes into force next year.
The Wildlife Act, which is intended to protect bat roosts, has a similar effect. Nowadays, you can only get planning permission for alterations to a listed building if the application is accompanied by a Bat Survey and a Mitigation Strategy Report, which determines whether bats will be disturbed by the building work. The financial consequences of the survey have been described by Mr John Orchard, who played the game and paid for a survey. The survey found that no bats roosted in his house, but a single pipistrelle was seen to enter the building during the survey. The sight of that solitary visitor necessitated further work and supervision resulting a in a total bill of more than £5,000.
This is idiocy in anyone’s book. The consequence is that the Wildlife Act guarantees the destruction of many of the roosts which it is designed to protect. Many people, frightened by the lunatic expense which may be involved, make sure that all evidence of bats is removed before any survey is undertaken.