Concerns have been raised that bats are living in trees which are due to be felled as part of a wind farm scheme.
The colony of pipistrelle bats are said to be living in old oak trees near Pontarddulais, which are due to make way for the Mynydd y Gwair windfarm project.
But Innogy Renewables, the company behind the windfarm, say they haven’t detected the presence of any bats in trees to be felled, and have asked for any evidence to be forwarded to them to consider.
The case has been taken up by Suzy Davies AM, who has been designated the bat champion at the National Assembly by the Wales Environmental Network, and who has contacted both Natural Resources Wales and Swansea Council to request they investigate the claim.
She said: “Bats have protection under law and it is essential that everything is done to preserve this colony.
“Ironically, research shows that wind turbines are now the greatest mortality threat to bats because they fly into the blades. Attempts are being made to get operators to switch turbines off at dusk in the summer which is when bats are at their most vulnerable.”
Martyn Evans, acting head of operations for NRW in South Wales West, confirmed the presence of bats had been reported by residents at the site, according to Mrs Davies.
And if corroborated, the developers will now have to apply for a European Protected Species licence, to permit them to fell the trees. No application for such a licence has yet been received.
Mrs Davies added: “The original environmental survey submitted by the developers as part of their planning application, which was carried out by consultants, did not detect this roost.
“Thankfully, residents themselves have reported their presence. I do understand that bats can move around and set up roosts in new places. But now that we know they are there, it is imperative that NRW ensures that they are given all the protection that they need.
“The trees where they are roosting should not be felled until the future of this colony has been secured.”
A Swansea Council spokesman said: “An ecology report was considered during the determination of the windfarm’s planning application.
“The responsibility of applying for a European Protected Species licence, if needed, lies with RWE Innogy UK Ltd, the company behind the development.”
A spokesman for Innogy added: “Detailed surveys of each individual tree, conducted by highly qualified and licensed bat ecologists, have found no bat roosts in the trees due to be felled.
“We understand local residents have concerns regarding the presence of bats which has been raised by Mrs Davies.
“We have requested that any evidence is supplied to us, so that we can pass it on to our expert ecologists for their consideration.
“We hope to receive this as soon as possible as we are keen to resolve local residents’ concerns directly wherever possible, and are strongly committed to safeguarding wildlife.
“We are aware of a roost in an unaffected group of trees nearby, albeit of a very different species to the one claimed, and this is perhaps the source of the confusion”.