A WILDLIFE crime officer said the Bat Conservation Trust "always regrets" the need to prosecute after a millionaire property developer was sentenced for destroying bat habitats.

As reported in the Daily Echo, Christopher Wilson, director of Sandbanks-based Avante Developments, failed to commission a biodiversity management plan before work started at the former Ickle Angels site in Carroll Avenue, Ferndown.

Wilson, who did not own the land, had designed a block of luxury flats for the site.

Police were alerted by a local councillor. However, by that time, the roosts of pipistrelle and long-eared bats - both European protected species - had been destroyed.

Wilson, who owns a seafront property in Brudenell Road, Sandbanks, hired David Stokes of South Coast Demolition as a sub-contractor.

Both men have now admitted two charges of damaging or destroying the breeding site of resting place of a wild animal of a European protected species.

Stokes, 53 and of The Close in Charlton Marshall, was fined £800 for each offence and ordered to pay costs when he appeared before magistrates.

Wilson, 52, was committed to Bournemouth Crown Court for a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) hearing - only the second of its kind in the UK.

He was fined £875 for each offence and ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge and costs of £500. In addition, as part of POCA proceedings he must repay £2,500 in three months, with 45 days in default.

Judge Brian Forster QC told him there was "no excuse" for not having carried out the necessary paperwork, and said the defendant could easily have spoken to the Bat Conservation Trust for advice.

PC Claire Dinsdale, of Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team, said: “What makes this case nationally important is that we applied for a Proceeds of Crime Act application, which is only the second time this has been done for bat crime in the UK.

"A POCA arises after a defendant is shown to financially benefit from a crime. The order is to reclaim an amount.

“If any developers, demolition firms, roofers or public have any concerns or questions please do contact the Bat Conservation Trust Helpline on 0345 1300 228. They will assist.

“We would rather work with developers to prevent matters. I would like to thank the ecologists who give up their time to assist police in such cases and the Bat Conservation Trust.”

Pete Charleston, conservation wildlife crime officer for the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), said: “The Trust always regrets the need for prosecutions of this nature.

“These convictions send a clear message to those who might be tempted to cut corners. If you think that costs can be saved by not following due process then think again, you will be held to account with any profit being confiscated.

“BCT are very grateful to both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service for a highly professional and effective investigation."