Why do we have to protect bats and what are the laws?
The UK has 18 species of bats that range from common to rare. As they can be found roosting within a building they are a material consideration when submitting a planning application and therefore planning officers will need to be satisfied the development will have no net impact on bats.
Statutory protection is afforded to certain species through European Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation wild fauna. This has been adopted into UK legislation through the provisions of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Additional protection for all bat species is provided under Schedule 2 of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Under regulation 41 it is an offence to deliberately capture or kill a wild animal of a European protected species, deliberately disturb any such animal and to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting site. Since August 2007 amendments to the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994 have changed the term 'deliberately disturb' such that it is an offence if the species are disturbed in such a way that it is likely to significantly affect the colonies ability to survive, breed or rear their young; or affect the local distribution or abundance of that species. A licence maybe required to disturb a bat roost under this legislation.
At the national level protection is afforded by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA 1981; as amended). It is designed to protect species considered to be of principal importance and for the purpose of conserving biodiversity.
What are the main types of roosts?
There are two main places where bats are found within buildings. Common pipistrelle, for example, uses crevices within buildings. Examples of these crevice areas include spaces between tiles, under lead flashing surrounding a chimney, eaves, between roofing felt, and under raised ridge tiles.
Many other species use large spaces or voids within buildings. These are used by species that require a large space to move around and often are used by brown long eared bats. These species like uncluttered areas and older buildings.
Bats use households for a variety of reasons such as mating, nursery, daytime, hibernation, feeding, and at night. Each roost type serves a specific requirement in the life history of a bat.
How do you survey for bats?
Bats can tuck themselves into small spaces and often in areas that are not noticeable to the householder. Bat surveys require the surveyor to look for evidence of bats, and determine if the site has presence or absence. The local bat group and county wildlife recorder is often consulted at this stage to see whether there are records of bats at the site or in the nearby area, and this helps to inform the walkover survey.
A walkover survey includes an internal and external survey. The external area is checked for potential entrance and emergence points, and evidence including droppings, urine stains and smoothed areas indicate potential access points. The internal survey looks in great detail for holes, cracks or crevices within the building. If external access points were noted, these areas are examined internally.
Please note that a Building Survey on a property carried out by a Chartered Building Surveyor may note the possible presence of bats and if so the survey report will probably recommend a more detailed inspection by an Ecologist.
What happens if evidence of bats is found?
When evidence of bats are found it is often recommended that further emergence echolocation surveys are carried out to determine the type of species, type of roost and number of individuals. This information can help inform the type of mitigation that will be required and if necessary help guide the European Protected Species licence application. Not every site requires a licence if they have bats. Licences are required ultimately if a disturbance to the roost will occur, particularly if large colonies of bats are to be effected or the species concerned is rare.
Why do I have to have mitigation and enhancement?
Mitigation and enhancement are required for all planning applications. Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) sets out the government’s policy on nature conservation and planning, and requires the planning process to take into account international and national law. PPS9 requires that planning policies and decisions avoid, mitigate, and compensate for negative effects on nature conservation, and also seek to enhance and restore biodiversity.
What are some mitigation examples?
The most common type of mitigation is timing. Timing is key for bat roosts. For example, if the site is only being used by brown long eared bats as a feeding roost during active months, works should aim to avoid when bats are not using the area (i.e. October to March inclusive). Further mitigation for a feeding roost might be to ensure that the individuals could use this site in the future as a feeding roost, which might require an area to be set aside for bats either in the existing building or in a nearby building before the bats return. An example of enhancement for a feeding roost would be the planting of wildlife friendly plants that will draw in more insects for feeding, fruit trees perhaps.
Another type of mitigation is the creation of replacement roosts. Crevice dwellers often require crevices to be maintained but if this is not possible then a new crevice habitat can be created in a similar location. Examples of creation of new roosts include, bat boxes, bat tiles, bat bricks and purpose built raises within ridge tiles and tiles.
Void dwelling species require more detailed mitigation for replacement or modification of roosts. It is recommended that original roosts are maintained wherever possible. If that cannot be achieved then new roost spaces can easily be created, often by constructing a portion of the loft that can be accessed through bat access tiles.
Please visit our Ecological Surveys page to obtain contact details for specialists in your area who can carry out Ecological Surveys
Principal Ecologist at Sedgehill Ecology Services
Sedgehill Ecology Services is an independent consultancy offering specialist ecology assessments and surveys in the south of England. We offer our high quality services at competitive rates, and pride ourselves on our quick turnaround and extensive experience.
Sedgehill Ecology Services are experienced with providing advice to householders, planners, architects, and developers on how best to design their scheme with ecological enhancement and mitigation in mind. We conduct site surveys for protected species and habitats, including those for bats, barn owls, badgers, birds, water vole, otter, reptiles, and amphibians.