What you should know about bat surveys

What you should know about bat surveys, Property Pest Control Advice

What You Should Know About Bat Surveys

21 Dec 2022

What You Should Know About Bat Surveys

Bats are notorious for holding projects up for months or weeks, as it is illegal to destroy their roosts or disturb them in the UK. Since any bats that are present in the area will need to be legally moved to a new area by a licensed bat specialist before your project can begin, they are an important part of planning that will need to be taken into consideration.

Bats and their roosts are protected in England, Scotland and Wales by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Along with this, the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2012 consolidates different amendments that have been made. The law not only covers bats, but also other wildlife such as badgers, and various wild flora and fauna.

What’s Against the Law?

In the UK, it is against the law to deliberately injure, capture, or kill bats. It is also an offence to recklessly or intentionally disturb bats, where the disturbance may impact their ability to survive, breed, or rear their young. Any disturbance that is likely to have a significant impact on the local abundance or distribution of any bat species is also against the law. The law also protects bat roosts, and it is an offence to damage or destroy a roost regardless of whether or not they are any bats present. It is illegal to obstruct access to bat roosts, and against the law to possess a bat.

When it comes to development, protected species should be considered. Bat surveys need to be carried out, along with various mitigating measures, in a way that is satisfactory to the local planning authority. If plans for safely and legally handling bats in the area are not made, then the planning application may be refused. In some cases, having a bat survey carried out and putting mitigation measures in place may be enforced as a condition of getting planning approval.

Which Developments are Likely to Need a Bat Survey?

There are certain development types that are more likely to require a bat survey than others. Most local authorities will have their own version of this list to provide further information on developments where a bat survey will be needed. A survey is usually necessary in situations where bats are considered a ‘reasonable likelihood’.

This can include agricultural buildings such as barns, farmhouses, and outbuildings of traditional stone or brick construction and/or with wooden beams that are exposed. There is also a reasonable likelihood of bats being present in pre-1960 detached properties located within 200m of woodland or water; buildings with hanging tiles or weatherboarding within 200m of water or woodland; and pre-1914 buildings with slate roofs or gable ends, or those within 400m of water or woodland. A bat survey will usually also always need to be carried out on any development proposal that involves a wind turbine.

What is a Bat Survey?

Bat surveys are designed to determine if there are bats in the area that need to be handled in a legal and safe way before the development is begun. With a bat survey carried out by professional bat surveyors, you can put plans in place to safely move the bats to another location if needed, so that the construction project does not disturb or harm them in any way.

A bat survey should always be carried out by a licensed ecologist. Otherwise, the results of the survey are likely to be rejected by the local authority. The surveyor will follow guidance that has been laid out by the appropriate authorities.

The bat surveyor that you choose should have the relevant license. Licenses in England are managed by Natural England. In Scotland they are managed by the Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural Resources in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.

A bat survey is typically carried out in two parts. The first part is a preliminary survey that is carried out for the purpose of assessing whether or not there is any likelihood of bats present in the area. Essentially, this is a scoping exercise which consists of two different parts. These are a walkaround and a data survey. Unless the preliminary survey completely dismisses that there are any bats present on the site, a full survey or activity survey will be completed.

What to Expect from the Preliminary Survey

Public resources can turn up a huge amount of information. The first part of the survey will map any relevant recorded bat presence in the local area, including the site and curtilage. Most bat species will travel up to 10km, so it’s important to keep this in mind when it comes to residential development. The bat surveyor will research both local and national databases and, in some cases, contact local bat groups to assess the presence of bats. The data should include details of watercourses, woodland, ponds, etc.

What to Expect from the Phase 1 or Extended Survey

The second part of the bat survey involves the extended or phase 1 survey, which is where surveyors are looking for the potential of roosts, any evidence of actual roosts, and any evidence of bats on the site. The surveyor will be particularly interested in the roof space. They will take note of any deviances in the roofing materials such as the roof felt, tiles, and other areas that may be potential entry points for bats.

It’s important to bear in mind that the type of bat can help with determining the type of building that bats consider to be high value. Some species prefer larger, open roof spaces, while others like crevices to roost in.

Surveyors will often set up a bat detector to record any bat calls and assess activity. Then, a more invasive phase of the survey is undertaken. This looks for tell-tale signs such as an identifiable smell, tracks and scratching, feeding remains, and bat droppings. If the possibility of bats is indicated, then the next step is an activity survey. This will be carried out at a time recommended by the bat surveyor and should only be carried out by a licensed bat specialist. It involves unattended bat detectors, infra-red cameras, and hand-held bat detection to detail the presence and activity of bats.

Any bats present at your development project site should be legally protected.

Comments on this What You Should Know About Bat Surveys article are welcome.


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