Bats and Other Protected Species Surveys

Legal Status of Bats

All British bats, as well as their breeding sites and resting-places (known collectively as their roosts) enjoy national and international protection.

A bat roost is any structure or place that a bat uses for shelter and protection at any time. Furthermore because many bats have the tendency to re-use roosts, legal opinion is that a roost is regarded as a roost whether or not bats are present.

All bat species in the UK are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) through inclusion in Schedule 5. All bats are also listed on Annex IV (and some on Annex II) of the EC Habitats Directive giving further, European protection. Taken together, the Act and the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2010 (as amended)* make it an offence to;

Intentionally or deliberately kill, injure or capture bats;

Deliberately disturb bats (whether in a roost or not);

Damage, destroy or obstruct access to bat roosts;

Possess or transport a bat or any part of a bat, unless acquired legally;

Sell, barter or exchange bats, or parts of bats

The legislation although not strictly affording protection to foraging grounds does protect roost sites. Bat roosts are protected at all times of the year whether or not bats are present. Any disturbance of a roost due to development must be licensed.

* The Regulations that deliver the UK’s commitment to the Habitats Directive.

What is involved in a Bat survey

In 2007 the Bat Conservation Trust published ‘Bat Surveys – Good Practice Guidelines’ (ISBN 978-1-872745-99-2). These guidelines are now widely accepted as the industry standard and have been updated in 2012. Many local authorities have now stated in writing that they expect the guidelines to be employed on work submitted to support a planning application. The minimum standard for a typical bat survey now consists of the following elements:-

A physical survey – a detailed internal and external inspection of the building or structure by a suitably licensed and experienced bat worker. This element can be conducted at any time of the year and may form the basis of an initial scoping survey accompanying a planning application submission.

An evaluation of any known biological records usually for a radius of 2kms and including a formal search of the local biological records centre. This element can be conducted at any time in the year.

Two2 evening emergence surveys and one1 dawn re-entrance survey. These are counts of bats entering and exiting the building and structure. They are assisted by the deployment of broad band bat detectors that record the characteristic high frequency calls produced by bats. These surveys are restricted to an optimum timing window of between May and August.

The production of a full planning report including, if bats are present, a Method Statement and Mitigation and Compensation Plan.

The Need for a Development Licence

Where a proposed development will affect a site known or suspected to be used by bats a proper consideration needs to be made on the likely impact of that development on any populations. Where it is unknown whether a site is utilised by bats the legislation makes it a necessity that that be determined. Ignorance of presence is not a defence against any unlawful actions carried against bats or their roosts.
It is stressed that the legislation protecting bats and their roosts is independent of planning permission. If permission is granted the operation must still be conducted in a way that is lawful with respect to the free-standing wildlife legislation.

Where bats are using a site it will be necessary to mitigate the impacts of the development upon the population(s). This would include measures that remove or reduce any damaging effects on the bats or their roosts. In most cases a package of compensation measures will be required to accommodate any loss of breeding or resting-places and the timing of works will need to be synchronised with the life-cycles of the affected species. This collective package of mitigation and compensation measures should allow the conservation status of bats to be at least maintained by the development. With careful thought the conservation status may even be enhanced by development. This is usually most easily achieved by early ecological input into the design of the project.

In the case of sites where bats are present a development licence from Natural England or the Welsh Government (WG) will be required to conduct works affecting bats. The licence makes actions that would otherwise be unlawful lawful, by providing a defence.

Survey work carried out in relation to development needs to be conducted under a scientific/conservation licence issued by Natural England or the Countryside Council for Wales. The work is normally conducted by an environmental consultant on the behalf of the developer and the consultant will advice on the necessary course of further action with respect to licences and mitigation and compensation measures.

Other protected species surveys routinely carried out by Enzygo are presence/likely-absence surveys for UK reptiles, UK amphibians including great crested newt, otter, water vole, dormouse, crayfish, badger, and seals

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