Nocturnal Bat Surveys for Planning and Development

Bats hold a significant ecological role in ecology that is often overlooked, yet highly impactful. Bats are recognised as a protected species and are highly susceptible to alterations in their surroundings. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate the potential effects that a development project may have on bats in the area during the planning application process.

If evidence of bats is found on a site, it is essential to perform nocturnal bat surveys during the early phase of planning to determine their presence and conservation requirements within the project vicinity.

What is a nocturnal bat survey?

A nocturnal bat survey is a study conducted during the night to gather data on bat populations, behaviour, and habitat usage. Since bats are primarily nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night, these surveys are essential for understanding them and implementing effective conservation measures.

Nocturnal bat surveying typically involves various methods tailored to capture different aspects of bat biology and ecology. These methods may include:

  1. Acoustic Monitoring: This involves deploying specialised ultrasonic bat detectors that record the echolocation calls emitted by bats as they navigate and forage for prey. Analysis of these calls can provide information on species presence, activity levels, foraging behaviour, and habitat preferences.
  2. Mist-Netting: Fine mesh nets suspended between poles are set up in areas where bats are known to fly. Bats flying into the nets become entangled, allowing researchers to carefully extract them for measurements, species identification, and other biological data collection. Mist-netting provides insights into bat population demographics, such as species composition, age structure, and reproductive status.
  3. Preliminary roost assessments (PRA): These surveys involve locating and inspecting sites for potential roost features, which may include buildings, trees, or caves. By examining roosting sites, researchers can determine roost occupancy, species diversity, roosting preferences, and seasonal patterns of habitat use.
  4. Emergence Counts: This method involves observing and counting bats emerging from their daytime roosts at dusk. Emergence counts provide valuable information on colony size, activity patterns, and seasonal changes in bat behaviour.

Nocturnal bat surveys are critical for biodiversity conservation, habitat management, and environmental impact assessments. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of bats through nocturnal surveys, ecologists can develop strategies to protect bat habitats, mitigate potential threats, and ensure that developers meet conservational requirements for their project.

Why are nocturnal bat surveys required?

Bats are a protected species, and the UK has regulations in place to protect them. Therefore, conducting nocturnal bat surveys ensures compliance with environmental laws and permits developers to navigate potential legal challenges associated with impacting bat habitats.

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. It is also illegal to damage, destroy or obstruct access to bat roosts.

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 bat boxes or artificial roosts. More information about bat mitigation measures can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust website.

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 suitability. Conservation efforts are in place to protect and preserve these fascinating creatures in the United Kingdom.

How can Collington Winter assist?

Collington Winter Environmental are a team of ecological consultants with experience in undertaking nocturnal bat surveys and bat activity 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 development 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 contact us ( for more information on our mitigation plans and survey work for protected species, such as bat surveys and great crested newt surveys. We also provide ecological appraisal and assessment services.

Our Director Jane Winter also provides landscape architecture services.

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