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Abbey estate residents in Thetford fight Flagship development plans with bat box operation





Residents are fighting back against controversial plans to demolish hundreds of homes by installing 500 bat boxes around their estate.

Proposals to rejuvenate the Abbey estate in Thetford were submitted by Flagship Group to make improvements over the course of 20 years – including replacing existing homes with new builds.

To combat this potential demolition, members of the Abbey Estate Action Group have launched their own bid to install bat boxes to support the conservation of bats but also to protect their homes, as bats are a protected species.

All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law in the UK. Picture: iStock
All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law in the UK. Picture: iStock

The operation has seen around 70 bat boxes hung around the estate so far and there is a fund-raising campaign with a target of £4,250 to buy the remaining 467 boxes.

Resident Kelly Estañol, who has lived on the estate since 2015, said: “We want to make things as difficult as possible for Flagship – starting with getting a bat box on every home on the estate.

“You need a licence to take down a bat box once you have bats nesting there, and there’s so many bats in Thetford – if we help the bats, the bats will help us.

A view of The Abbey. Picture: Flagship Group
A view of The Abbey. Picture: Flagship Group

“We do not want their developments to ruin our estate and we’ve had so much support from the community so far – no one wants to lose their home.”

In March, residents also launched a petition to halt the development plans which now has 463 signatures.

Flagship released a statement reassuring residents that supporting wildlife is a key part of its vision for the estate and confirmed that bird boxes, bat boxes and log piles will be installed as part of its plans.

Play areas, green spaces and a new river walk are also included in this vision as well as a neighbourhood park and community centre.

The developer's 20-year plans have been met with concerns from residents. Picture: Flagship Group
The developer's 20-year plans have been met with concerns from residents. Picture: Flagship Group

Flagship’s masterplan also states that almost 600 new trees will be planted including native species like crab apple and hawthorn and large species such as oak and lime.

James Payne, regeneration director, said: "Promoting biodiversity and creating habitats where plants and animals can thrive is a key part of our vision for the Abbey.

"Right next to the Abbey is the Little Ouse River and Thetford Forest, both areas which are rich in flora and fauna.

A concept image of the Abbey estate shows how nature will be incorporated into the plans. Picture: Flagship Group
A concept image of the Abbey estate shows how nature will be incorporated into the plans. Picture: Flagship Group

“The proposed regeneration offers the opportunity to draw on the character and ecology of these areas to improve biodiversity on the Abbey itself.

"We also want to create more spaces at the Abbey where people can connect with nature, which is vital for mental health and wellbeing.

“Our vision for a new Abbey Meadows River Walk, neighbourhood heart with a large park, and a central ‘Greenway’ path running from the river to the railway line are part of that vision.

"People at the Abbey have told us that creating areas for more wildlife was something that mattered to them.

“Flagship has never undertaken a project with more engagement and consultation than this - and we are still just getting started.

“We’re going to keep listening and speaking to residents in the weeks, months, and years to come."