The fastest animal in the world could hamper colossal plans to turn a derelict Derbyshire quarry into a waterpark leisure resort.
Last month, proposals were revealed to build a huge water park, 116-bed hotel, restaurant, shops and hundreds of apartments and holiday lodges in Crich Quarry.
However, the project, pitched to Amber Valley Borough Council by Hillcrest (Crich) Limited, could have to clear a falcon-sized hurdle.
The quarry is thought to be home to at least one pair of nesting peregrine falcons – the world’s fastest animal.
A local resident claims that the species, which can fly at speeds of up 200mph when diving for prey, has been nesting in the quarry for years.
The bird, of which there are believed to be 1,400 nesting pairs in the UK, is a protected species.
A spokesperson for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said: “We have records of peregrines in the quarry. We wouldn’t be surprised if there are peregrines as quarries are good habitat.
“As a Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1989 (as amended), the nesting sites of these species are protected against disturbance, so any development would have to take this into consideration and ensure that the development will not disturb them. The developer would have to prove this before they start work.
“There is an application in place and we are due to comment on it.”
All peregrines, their nests and eggs are safeguarded under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1989.
Killing, injuring or taking a peregrine falcon or its young – or causing either intentional or reckless disturbance – can lead to an unlimited fine, up to six months imprisonment or both.
Hillcrest did not make any reference to animals living in Crich Quarry or any mitigation to protect them in its initial design brief, submitted last month.
It is believed that the UK is home to 20 per cent of all of Europe’s peregrine falcons.
Although traditionally more common on crags and in quarries, peregrine falcons are now frequently seen in cities – making use of skyscrapers and cathedrals for their lofty nests, called eyries.
This includes a pair of peregrines which have made the top of Derby Cathedral their home since 2006.
Hillcrest has not yet submitted a formal planning application for its Crich Quarry plans – which it has been devising for more than eight years.
It had filed an application to the authority for an environmental impact screening last month.
The council has now responded to say that a screening will not be necessary.
However, the authority’s scientific officer, Rowena Bailey, wants “any planning application to be accompanied by at least a Phase 1 Geo-environmental Assessment and an Air Quality Assessment”.
It is thought that once formal planning applications come forward, they will be submitted in two batches. One would be to clear and prepare the quarry, the other would be for the construction of the huge development.