Mitigating for bats in buildings

Following bat surveys, a site licence for bats (European Protected Species Licence) from Natural England is often required before development works can take place.

Where bats are affected by building works, a licenced mitigation strategy must be provided. This can include many different options such as special bat lofts’ bat boxes and access tiles and even stand-alone buildings bat-cotes.

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and Exeter University have recently published a study looking at what does and doesn’t work effectively.[1] Its conclusions were that:

  • Retaining existing bat roosts as far as possible “in situ” the development, even if modified, has the best outcome for bats, particularly when associated with re-roofing works;
  • Special ‘bat lofts’ within buildings worked better than bat boxes;
  • Bats may take several years to colonise newly built roosts, irrespective of bat lofts of boxes.

We are currently providing mitigation advice for a building conversion at Barnham Broom, which includes a brown long-eared bat maternity roost. The clients set-a-aside part of the barn to create a new roost area exclusively for bats. When we visited 1-year post-construction, there were bat droppings and an adult brown long-eared bat already using the ‘bat loft’. Our client, Julie Eagle was delighted “I am thrilled bats are continuing to use our site, and we want to encourage all wildlife here.”

Please contact us to discuss your project, and how best to incorporate bat mitigation strategies and licensing into your development.

[1] https://www.cieem.net/bat-mitigation-strategies-research-project

Brown long-eared bat

Natural England struggle with Discretionary Advice Service and licencing

Brown long-eared bat

Staff shortages at Natural England

European Protected Species Licences ( EPSL) applications to Natural England for bats and great crested newts often peak in the late summer (June-October). This leads to longer response times compared to the 30-working days target.

Since autumn 2017, we have been aware that Natural England have had significant staff shortages for processing licences and been unable to meet this 30-days response target for some time.  Their recent May newsletter admits that: “At present around the country, we [ Natural England] have some Area Teams who are performing well beyond 30 working days (with some upwards of 60 working days)”

Impacts on developers

Working to a reliable response time of 30-days, it is relatively easy for developers to allow for a commencement date in their build-programme.

An unreliable response date can cause last-minute cancellations by needing to either stand-down contractors or cancel and rebook completely. With present national shortages of specialist contractors, there are long lead-in times, and an unpredicted change in response dates for licencing has complex impacts on project.

A key present focus for developers is being able to reliably and accurately programme resourcing; any deviation can cause developers significant financial and time-associated costs. 

Diversion of resources to licencing

As the 2018 seasonal peak approaches, Natural England have decided to divert resources from other areas into meeting their licencing target. 

Natural England have said, based on slippage in meeting the target, they are therefore diverting “all available staff resources” into meeting the demand for new licence applications. There is no firm commitment to meeting their 30 working day target. The expectation is that the diversion of resources will continue for up to 6 months.

Impacts on Discretionary Advice Service

The Discretionary Advice Service ( DAS) is a commercial service from Natural England. Norfolk Wildlife Services often uses it for early discussion about developments, reducing delays and costs for clients.  For Natural England, the service is an early opportunity to provide comments on species mitigation plans. This allows improvements before any application for a licence is made.  Front-loading advice nearly always reduces involvement from statutory agency later on. It also here allows recovery of costs as well.

Similarly “Pre-submission screening” service” checks a licence application before it is made reducing corrections later on in process.

In order to divert resources into licencing, Natural England states Discretionary Advice Service will be reduced, both slowing advice on their existing commissions and leading to them turning down new commissions : “non-statutory PSS and DAS advice to applicants over the coming months and in many instances …will have to be declined. ”

The only exceptions are stated as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and contractual arrangements “already …in place for larger, long term developments”.

Final comments

Natural England have difficult decisions on utilisation of its limited resources. It will not have taken lightly a decision to effectively moth-ball the Discretionary Advice Service.

Paradoxically Natural England have recently published results on a consultation on charging for wildlife licence applications, stating that they intend to charge for licences in order to “provide a much improved licensing service that delivers the majority of our licence decisions within 30 working days (or an otherwise agreed date)“.

Unfortunately given that the paid-for DAS (and PSS) were similarly meant to provide both certainty to developers and extra resources to Natural England, this sudden diversion of resources does not bode well for “a much improved licensing service”.  It seems unlikely that additional income from charging for licences will resolve a fundamental capacity issue. 

The diversion of staff resources by Natural England from front-loaded “DAS” advice to meeting turnaround for licences appears to be diverting resources from one “priority” task to another.  

Fundamentally Natural England appears to have insufficient staff to deliver even statutory needs and urgently needs more resources. 

 

What to do if you find a stag beetle

During work, tree surgeons ( especially while removing decaying tree stump) sometime find large black beetles. They may be concerned that they are Greater Stag Beetle Lucanus cervus and want to know what action to take to protect them.

Greater Stag Beetles are protected against sale in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and are also a Priority Species under the NERC Act and an Annex II European Species.  They do occur in Norfolk, but are much commoner futher south in Ipswich and Suffolk.

Often though they will be stag beetles but the easily confused Lesser Stag Beetle Dorcus parallelipipedus , which is more widely distributed.

Lesser stag beetle Lucanus cervus

Decaying wood is important to all mini-beasts, especially in the “tidier” urban areas like Norwich.  An easy approach if possible is to reduce any stump in large sections and re-sited somewhere safer (something the lesser stag beetle colony will appreciate).

If you do find any text a photograph to us and we are happy to identify for you and let you know what to do.

We are also happy to carry out full invertebrate surveys of sites and make recommendations for managing them for charismatic stag beetles.

Photo gallery for newts

Winter Newsletter 2017-2018

Another busy year at Norfolk Wildlife Services, with survey work across Norfolk for a huge variety of projects. Read highlights about how we helped our clients, the wildlife we have seen in our most recent winter newsletter in download here!

Alternatively you can select individual articles from this newsletter below!

Winter 2017/2018 newsletter

Click here to download our winter 2017/2018 newsletter

This issue:

 

Select our newsletter (Right) to download and save your own copy.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter.

Keep in touch with us if you need advice or protected species surveys undertaking for the spring ahead. You can contact us here.

 

 

 

Update: Great Crested Newt licencing and mitigation review

Natural England is reviewing its approach to great crested newt licencing and mitigation approach, which will be introduced across the country. In each county, the approach will begin with a study to identify where newts are, and then create a map of the potential impacts of development to form appropriate conservation strategies in partnership with local government bodies. In the meantime, the existing methods of great crested newt mitigation for development projects withstand and there are no plans to abolish the laws protecting this species.

Great Crested Newt on hand

Read more about it in our previous newsletter article

If you want advice about how these changes might affect your company please contact us.

 

Students Go Batty For Work Experience

Quote

An unusually warm autumn has meant more bats out in the evenings later in the year than normal. This provided students from East Coast College with a chance to gain bat survey experience on two different dusk surveys.

Ben Moore, Assistant Ecologist at NWS, said: “Our first site was along a stretch of the upper reaches of the river Bure surrounded by wet grassland and woodland edge. We had great views of noctules, one of our largest bats, as they foraged high in the twilight over the open grassland”.

students

East Coast College students gain experience by helping with bat surveys

“The students heard the characteristically slow slapping calls of the noctule, which distinguished it from most other species. Once it had become darker, we saw bats over the water, their white underbellies still visible. Coupled with distinctive rapid ‘machine gun’ like calls, this identified Daubenton’s bats using the river to feed on mosquitoes and other tasty morsels of the flying insect variety.”

“The second survey site was along a stretch of the Marriott’s way, a well-sheltered commuting and foraging route for bats with its tree-lined embankments. Here we observed common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle and used a handheld frequency detector to tell them apart as they zipped up and down the disused railway.””

 

Spring Newsletter 2017

All our latest wildlife news in our Norfolk Wildlife Services’ Spring Newsletter 2017.

In this issue we bring you :

Or click to download a pdf copy

Survey season ahoy!

It’s that time of year again when we start planning for the forthcoming survey season.

However, don’t think we have been twiddling out thumbs since November!  There have been Phase 1 surveys to carry out and arboricultural impact assessments to write – but now we’re coming up the busy season.

By planning ahead and taking account of various seasonal constraints posed by many protected species we can help project managers avoid potential delays in submitting planning applications or enabling construction works.  For example the breeding season for great crested newts typically starts in mid-March and continues until mid-June (subject to weather), which dictates the optimal window for surveying.


Survey calendar

 

Click on the image to view a calendar that identifies the seasonal constraints associated with ecological and protected species surveys.

 


In anticipation of the survey season we’ve been tidying up the equipment shed, ensuring we have all the kit needed for the months ahead:

  • The great crested newt bottle traps have been made making sure all the associated canes all have hazard tape on so we don’t lose any.
  • The bat detector batteries are all on charge and the pencils have been sharpened.
  • There have been trips to the DIY store and roofing felt cut to size for reptile surveys.
  • The life-jackets have been sent for a service ready for water based surveys and our wellies have all been cleaned.

We look forward to working with you during this survey season and throughout the year.  If you have any questions about surveys and when they can be undertaken please do let us know.

A newt direction for species licencing?

As March and the great crested newt survey season approaches, you may be wondering whether the vote to the leave the European Union changes the surveys required for planning ?

Great crested newt

There are currently no plans to abolish protection of European Protected Species (EPS); protection we presume will be transposed into UK legislation by the Great Reform Bill, although the species was already fully protected under UK law prior to its European designation.

However as part of the Red Tape Challenge, Natural England are reviewing their approach to licences. In December 2016 the agency released the results of a public consultation held in spring 2016 on 4 potential new policies for EPS licensing :

Policy 1: Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating European Protected Species (EPS) from development sites.

Policy 2: Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for lost habitats through development.

Policy 3: Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date.

Policy 4: Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted.

Policy 1 and 2 both look at the idea of “mitigation banking” – which is previously built mitigation that developers can buy into. This changes the emphasis from spending time trapping and removing newts to building a resilient network of pre-planned habitat for them. These two policies should provide developers with more certainty around costs and any delays that might be incurred. However this non-conventional exclusion and relocation technique is controversial and may not yet be approved.

Policy 3 allows newts access to land where development will temporarily create habitat likely to attract EPS, such as mineral extraction. On completion of development it will be necessary to provide well-prepared management plans to ensure gains to the target species. This would only work where the conservation status of the local population would not be detrimentally affected.

Policy 4 is intended to avoid duplicating effort where the distribution of newts is well known and can be inferred from existing data. This policy is intended to reduce costs and increase benefits to EPS through varying licencing approaches to suit site-specific circumstances.

For more information have a look at the pilot in Woking where major urban expansion allows for a planned approach for mitigating for newts.