Council that destroyed dormouse habitat escapes prosecution

Cardiff Council has admitted clearing a known dormouse habitat to ground level without obtaining a licence from Natural Resources Wales, but will not face prosecution.

In 2021, Cardiff Council was reported to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for destroying a known dormouse habitat at the Northern Meadows site in Whitchurch, outside the city centre. 

Dormice are a european protected species (EPS), and a licence is required from any developer or body which seeks to cause harm to their habitats. The destruction of their habitat without a licence has previously seen fines issued to developers in England as high as £100,000

According to the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), which assists police forces in wildlife crime investigations, the area was cleared to ground level and replanted with fruit trees, and no EPS licence was obtained from NRW to support the destruction of the habitat.

PC Mark Powell, a seconded police officer attached to NRW, said that the incident had occurred following an error between responsible departments.

According to NRW, when Cardiff Council admitted to the offence they signed a Community Resolution issued by Gwent Police, which said that if certain agreed actions were met, the council would not be subject to any further police investigation. 

Gwent Police’s website says that to use a Community Resolution, an officer “must have enough evidence for a case to be brought to court and the offender must admit their guilt. The officer must also decide that the matter would be better dealt with in the community following consultation with the victim”.

In PC Powell’s statement, he said that the measures agreed to by Cardiff Council include a review of all work on council owned sites across the city “to ensure that work is undertaken in the appropriate manner in future”, and that work must be undertaken with the council planning department to share information regarding ecological surveys and ensure regular liaison with NRW’s Species Team.

The council will also be required to convene regular meetings with the council’s Green Infrastructure Group, which includes officers from departments including parks, planning, highways, and rights of way “to share information and raise awareness”.

NRW told ENDS that failure to complete the agreed actions may result in the matter being formally investigated and in the council being liable for prosecution.

PC Powell said: “This investigation has served to improve the working relationship between NRW and the Council of the City and County of Cardiff to ensure that errors such as this are prevented from occurring again.” 

He continued: “Whilst this offence has taken place, [Cardiff Council’s] commitment to ensure that it is not repeated is refreshing and for that I thank them… This local authority fully accepted their culpability and going forward their new and improved methods will serve as a benchmark for others to follow.”

A spokesperson for Cardiff Council said: “The council regrets that the requirements of the dormice licence were not fully complied with whilst undertaking restoration works on the Forest Farm Estate to cut back invasive vegetation to make way for new tree planting. New measures have been put in place to ensure compliance in the future."