Bat Survey for Planning Application

When undertaking construction or development projects, it is essential to consider the potential impact on local wildlife and biodiversity. Bats are a protected species, and they play a vital role in ecosystems and are particularly sensitive to changes in their habitat. Therefore, it is crucial to conduct thorough bat surveys as part of the planning permission process to assess the presence and conservation needs in the project area.

Due to their ecological importance, bats are protected under national and international legislation, including the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of habitats and Species Regulations 2010.

It is an offence to kill, injure, capture, or intentionally disturb bats in their natural habitats. Therefore, if it is found that bats are present on a site, developers are legally required to carry out bat mitigation and compensation measures before any development work can begin. These measures may include the creation of a bat box or roost. More information about bat mitigation measures can be found on the bat conservation trust website.

What is a bat roost?

The location of where a bat lives whilst it is not flying is called a roost. In buildings, places such as cavity walls, loft spaces, boarding or hanging tiles can all provide features that are suitable for bats. Bats can also roost in trees, tunnels or natural crevices and caves.

Bats typically require various environmental conditions throughout their lifecycle and may move between different roosts numerous times a year. Bat roosts are complex, and even individual or small roosts can be of great importance for some species. If a vital roost is disturbed or destroyed, it can lead to significant damage to a bat population. It is illegal to destroy, disturb or obstruct access to bat roosts.

Types of bat survey for planning application

There are several types of bat surveys that may be conducted as part of the planning application process. The specific type of survey required will depend on various factors. These may include the nature of the proposed development, the location, and the presence of suitable bat habitats. Here are some common types of bat survey for planning application:

  • Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA): This initial survey involves a visual inspection of buildings, trees, and other structures within and around the development site to identify potential bat roosting features and feeding remains. It helps determine if further surveys are necessary and provides a preliminary indication of the presence or likely absence of bats.
  • Roost Characterisation Surveys: If bat roosts are identified, further surveys may be conducted to gather more detailed information about the roost, such as its size, occupancy, and conservation significance. These surveys help inform appropriate mitigation measures and ensure the conservation of habitats.
  • Emergence and Re-entry Surveys: These surveys are conducted at dawn or dusk, the times when bats are most active, to observe their exit from and return to roosts. This is often located near roof tiles and hanging tiles. This survey method provides data on bat species, roost locations, and activity levels.
  • Activity Surveys: These surveys involve the use of bat detectors, which record and analyse bat echolocation calls. They provide information on bat species present, their activity patterns, and foraging behaviour. Activity surveys can be conducted using static detectors placed at strategic locations or by employing transects to cover larger areas.

It is important to note that the specific survey requirements may vary depending on regional habitat and species regulations and local planning authorities. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with qualified ecologists or bat surveyors familiar with local requirements to determine the most appropriate surveys for a full planning application.

What types of bats are there in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, there are various species of bats. These species vary in size, habitat preferences, and feeding behaviours. Some of the main species of bats include the common pipistrelle bat, the noctule bat, the soprano pipistrelle bat, Daubentons’ bat, the whiskered bat, Brandt’s bat, the brown long eared bat, Leisler’s bat, the Nathusius bat and many more.

It is important to note that some of these bat species are rare and have specific habitat requirements. Conservation efforts are in place to protect and preserve these fascinating creatures in the United Kingdom.

When can a bat survey for planning application be carried out?

Bat surveys are typically conducted during specific periods when bats are most active, as their activity patterns vary throughout the year. However, the bat survey season is typically at its peak during the summer months. Therefore, most bat surveys should be carried out during this period.

Although, if bat activity is found during the summer months, a bat hibernation survey may be required during the winter months to establish whether the area is also used by hibernating bats.

It is important to note that the specific timing of surveys may vary depending on regional variations in bat activity and weather conditions. Additionally, some surveys may require multiple visits over several evenings or nights to obtain comprehensive data on the presence of bats, their behaviour, and habitat usage.

When planning bat surveys, it is crucial to consider any legal requirements and consult with experienced ecologists or licensed bat surveyors who are knowledgeable about the local bat species and their seasonal behaviour. They will be able to provide guidance on the most appropriate survey timing and methodology for your specific location and project.

Who can carry out a bat survey for planning application?

Full bat surveys should be conducted by experienced ecologists or licensed bat surveyors who have the necessary knowledge and expertise to identify bat species, assess roosting sites, and interpret bat activity data. These professionals possess a deep understanding of bat ecology, survey methodologies, and legal requirements related to European protected species.

In the UK, bat surveys should ideally be carried out by ecologists who hold a Natural England bat survey license and a European Protected Species licence. These licenses are issued to individuals who have demonstrated sufficient skills and knowledge in conducting bat surveys and handling bats appropriately.

How can Collington Winter assist?

Collington Winter Environmental are a team of ecological consultants with extensive experience in undertaking bat and hibernating bat surveys on all types of development projects. Our Ecology Director, Olivia Collington, holds a Natural England Bat licence and has worked with protected species across the UK.

If it is determined that your proposed project may affect bats, our team can provide bat mitigation measures to ensure that your project meets legal requirements. We understand the importance of ecosystem services, natural resources, and natural capital, and we provide practical, realistic solutions to developers in all fields.

Please get in touch with our Ecology Director Olivia Collington (Olivia.collington@collingtonwinter.co.uk) for more information on protected species surveys. We also provide ecological appraisal and assessment services.

Our Director Jane Winter also provides landscape architecture services.

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