PLANS for a controversial wind farm on the edge of York have been delayed by a year – because of concerns about the impact on bats and other wildlife.

Banks Renewables had hoped to lodge a planning application for a 15MW wind farm in fields west of Copmanthorpe by the end of this year.

But Banks director Phil Dyke has confirmed it is now more likely to be the end of 2012.

Part of the reason, he admitted, was that “there are some ecological surveys which we have not completed yet”.

This is the second major planning application to be affected this year by concerns about bats. Proposals by York Museums Trust for a huge observation wheel in the Museum Gardens, York, were withdrawn at the last minute in February for a bat survey, which is now under way.

In a letter to Banks Renewables, the firm behind the wind farm proposals, City of York Council development management officer Victoria Bell says more work needs to be done to consider the impact on views of York and the Minster.

Her letter also sets out concerns about the impact on bats and birds.

“Any such development would require comprehensive surveys and monitoring for both these groups, particularly with regard to any foraging/ commuting/ migratory routes through the area, and feeding behaviour within the site,” the letter says.

Bat monitoring should take place for at least a year, it adds, “so that bat use and activity in the vicinity can be monitored across several seasons”. Mr Dyke said his firm would carry out a bat survey, along with bird and mammal surveys – although he stressed it would be unusual if a wind farm at the site were to have a negative impact on animal species.

Campaigners opposed to the wind farm today welcomed the delay.

“It gives us more time to establish our case,” said Alan Davidson, secretary of the Copmanthorpe Wind Farm Action Group.

“It does seem strange that people’s views can be overridden, and yet along comes a bat and all of a sudden everything stops.

“But we’re quite happy for the bats to be there.”

Mr Dyke said Banks expected to know within the next six months whether it would go ahead with a formal planning application.

If it did, the company would be “looking at the end of 2012,” he said.

The initial scoping report talks of up to five wind farms on land west of Copmanthorpe, next to Hagg Wood.

Each turbine could be up to 145 metres tall – nearly the height of Blackpool Tower – and would generate up to 3MW of energy.

Batty attitude to animal kingdom?

FOR the second time this year, bats have got in the way of a major development in York.

Back in February, proposals to site a big wheel in Museum Gardens were withdrawn at the last minute so a bat survey could be carried out.

Now formal plans for a 15 MW wind farm at Copmanthorpe have been delayed by a year – because of the need for surveys looking at the impact on bats and other birds and animals.

Campaigners fighting the wind farm proposals welcomed the delay – but highlighted the irony of a planning system which sometimes seemed more concerned about animals than people.

“It does seem strange that people’s views can be overridden, and yet along comes a bat and all of a sudden everything stops,” said Alan Davidson, secretary of the Copmanthorpe Wind Farm Action Group.

But then we are, as a nation, a bit batty about animals.

Just look at the fuss being made today about Georgie the toad – whose age we shamelessly reveal as being more than 40. That may well make her the oldest common toad living in the wild anywhere in the world, said University of York researcher Sal Hobbs.

Developers might not always appreciate our sensitivity to the needs of wild creatures. And we do need to balance that with our own need for new homes and renewable, carbon-free power.

But we are in a very real sense the custodians of this planet, and of the futures of the wild creatures we share it with.

The ecological surveys needed before both the big wheel and the Copmanthorpe wind farm can progress should be carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible. But it is absolutely right that they should be carried out.