Why and when is a survey needed ?
All British species of bats and their roosts are protected by UK and European law. Local Planning Authorities (LPA) therefore take bats into account when determining planning applications and may request a bat survey.
A bat survey is required where bats could be affected by a development. Examples include sites such as old barns, buildings close to woodland and water, bridges, and old trees. The presence of bats does not mean that the development cannot go ahead. It just means that more details may be required on their use of the site.
Anyone planning to develop or demolish a building, which might affect bats, should plan for bat surveys and perhaps any mitigation needed. The bat survey and assessment work will require an experienced, specialist bat consultant, so you need to find someone you can work with and trust.
How is a bat survey carried out ?
The initial stage of a bat survey involves a day time visit. This allows advice on the likelihood of bats being present or using the site. If bats are potentially present, then summer bat “emergence surveys”, carried out at dawn and dusk, can then tell if the building is used as a roost. This also builds up detail about how any bats are using the site and the wider landscape. Sometimes winter bat surveys are required where there are cellars or suitable places for hibernation (e.g. ice houses ), but this are rare in East Anglia.
A similar method will apply for tree survey, although for woodlands a tree assessment method or transects may be more appropriate.
How is it used ?
The bat survey will be used by the planning authority to determine the application, and this may include attaching conditions such as timing for the development, installing a bat loft or bat boxes. Landscaping works may enhance the habitat for bats around the development.
What happens after planning ?
Where bats are significantly affected then a European Protected Species (EPS) licence will be required from Natural England. This is issued free, but needs a bat specialist to put together the application and supervise the works. The licence set out how the works must be carried out as well as any monitoring after the development is completed. Once this is in place the works can proceed on a clear timetable.
Our tip for when planning a development is to seek initial advice for your bat survey and mitigation well in advance to prevents unexpected delays in planning.
The Bat Conservation Trust has recently published good practice guidelines on the process for bat surveys and mitigation. These are a very helpful guide where bats are affected by development proposals.