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Floodlit games pitches planned on bat foraging conservation area in Mitcham
The council is pressing forward with plans to build two floodlit games pitches in a conservation area used as a feeding area by bats to the dismay of community groups.
Community groups have been in discussion with the council since 2011 over the use of disused tennis courts at Bellamy Copse next to the Canons leisure centre in Mitcham - a conservation area used as a feeding area for bats.
In July Merton council confirmed their plans to build two flood-lit multi-use games areas at the site which objectors say will be a cause of light pollution and be to the detriment of a rare bat species which use the area for foraging.
The plans have outraged members of the Mitcham Cricket Green and Community Heritage Group who have branded it the "most shocking" proposal in a conservation area for some time.
A spokesperson for the group said: "We’re utterly dumbfounded that [this proposal] comes not from a private developer but from the council - who really should know better how to work within the Conservation Area.
"In our view this plan is entirely inappropriate.
"It will cause significant harm to the special quality of Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area and harm the setting of two listed mansion houses - Park Place and Canons.
"Seven days a week floodlighting will cause serious light pollution and sky glow at the heart of the area.
"There will be serious harm to wildlife, including impacts on legally protected bats."
Two bat surveys were carried out by the council in 2012 which found three species using the area including the common, soprano pipistrelle and Leisler’s bat - the latter considered to be a rare species - which warned that removal of woodland to create the MUGA would have a negative impact their foraging habits.
To counteract this, the council has put forward a mitigation plan involving a "relaxed mowing" regime of the area and the planting of 250 "broadleaved" plants which, according to the report's ecologist, will increase insect food supply for birds, bats, hedgehogs and voles.
In recommending the application council planning officers said: "The proposal would provide new and improved sports facilities meeting a recognized need, would enhance biodiversity in the area and by virtue of appropriate mitigation measures would not affect the protection of bats in the area.
"It is acknowledged that the proposals would have some impact on the conservation area.
"However, the new feature, the floodlighting columns, have been reduced in height and when considered against the backdrop of the various buildings that make up the Canons cluster of sports facilities, and the siting of the proposals which are relatively remote to listed buildings and other structures, it may be considered that the character and appearance of the conservation area would be preserved and that on balance the potential benefits outweigh any visual impact."
The application is set to be considered at a planning meeting on Thursday, December 12.
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