Dormice delay multi-million pound shopping mall extension
Discovery of tiny rodents halts Atlantic Village shops expansion.
WORK on a multi-million pound extension to Atlantic Village has been postponed after a survey indicated the presence of dormice.
The out-of-town Bideford shopping mall is set to almost double in size with eight new shops in a new 5,405sqm retail sales area on the site of the Atlantis Adventure Park, which is to be demolished.
Torridge District Council approved the plans for the �11million redevelopment against their own officers’ recommendations in October last year, although the final go-ahead was only given at the end of August this year following the agreement of a package of financial proposals to support Bideford town centre and local public transport links.
But the discovery of the tiny rodents, a European Protected Species, means developers must relocate them to a new habitat before building – putting the start of the work on the project back to spring 2013.
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An ecological impact assessment was carried out by EAD ecological consultants and found two nests in hedgerows on the site.
A spokesman for developers Drake Bideford Ltd, said: “The survey work for the application indicated the presence of a dormouse on the site which requires a licence to relocate to a new habitat.
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“This process is under way but we have to adhere to the seasonal requirements of such a relocation which means that although we are ready to go it will be the spring before you will see any physical activity on the site.
“We are therefore hoping to now be open in 2014, and are in talks with a range of exciting retailers who are looking at both units within the existing facility and the larger units to be delivered as part of the approved expansion scheme.”
Dormice are mainly found in the south of England and can spend up to half the year hibernating, according to Natural England.
It is estimated there are around 45,000 dormice in England and Wales, but they are rarely seen as they are nocturnal animals.
The survey found the extension to the shopping centre will see 270 square metres of species-rich hedgerow and 1,230 square metres of broadleaved woodland – the preferred habitats for dormice – removed from the site.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1991, it is illegal to damage any structure or place used for shelter or protection by a dormouse, or to intentionally kill or injure one.
A spokesman for Natural England confirmed the developers had not yet applied for a licence to move the dormice.