The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has said it’s satisfied that there was no evidence of wildlife being present at a youth club in Creggan before it was demolished last month.

St Mary’s Youth Club at Fanad Drive was set alight on several occasions by vandals before the facility was cleared in March to allow a new centre to built on the site.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service reported at the time that it had tackled five deliberate fires at the derelict building over the St Patrick’s weekend.

The presence of animals such as bats or any wild birds subject to conservation orders may have resulted in the demolition being halted and as a consequence delayed the new club being constructed.

A new £2 million youth facility was finally given the green light by the Planning Committee of Derry City and Strabane District Council in January this year.

Part of the Planning Application for the new building from December 2018 listed that the statutory obligations of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs were to “ensure that the natural and historic and environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations.”

The document also stated that: “If there is evidence of bat activity/roosts at thesite, all works should cease immediately and further advice sought from the Wildlife Inspector’s Team.”

An inspection was carried out by NIEA’s Natural Environment Division at the Creggan site in October 2018. It’s findings said: “While it is accepted that there were no bats found, there is potential for the buildings to be used by bats…”

A spokesperson for NIEA also told the Derry News that the first inspection occurred at the site on May 22, 2018 and that no bats were found so the area was cleared for demolition. The demolition took place under the supervision of an ecologist from the department.

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