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Why do I need a bat survey?

If you are converting, renovating or modifying a building, you may need a bat survey. Especially buildings: in rural locations; on agricultural land; in or near designated sites e.g. South Downs National Park or Chichester Harbour; close to woodland, water or hedgerows; with hanging tiles, weatherboarding or clay roof tiles; in suburbs; and that is not an exhaustive list.

What’s the process and why does it take so long?

It doesn’t take too long if you can time it right! A preliminary bat roost assessment (also known as a Phase 1 or a bat scoping survey) is the first step. This survey can be any time of year. It comprises an external walkover of all structures on site and an internal inspection of loft voids.

If evidence of bats is found, emergence/re-entry surveys are required. If potential is found (even if no evidence of bats is found) then emergence/re-entry surveys are required. Without these surveys, we cannot say for sure whether or not bats are roosting in your building, what species they are, and where/how they are accessing their roosts. Bats are very elusive and homeowners can be unaware for years that they are sharing their home with a bat roost. See the survey calendar below.

A mitigation plan is designed and we explain how to avoid and reduce the impacts your proposals will have upon bats. The ecologist may apply for a mitigation licence from Natural England. Without a licence, a roost cannot be legally damaged or destroyed.

What time of year can you conduct surveys?

See the chart below which shows when we can and cannot carry out surveys. It's always the same every year (so don't wait until August to squeeze your surveys in!).

It's nearly the end of August! Is it too late to fit in emergence/re-entry bat surveys?

Probably. That is our busiest time of year, but get in touch with your requirements ASAP and we will try our best. We can still conduct Preliminary Bat Roost Assessments and Phase 1 Habitat Surveys at any time of year, and within the report for this we will provide recommendations for further surveys.

How long will your reports be valid?

1-2 years. Beyond this your LPA will almost certainly ask for you to undertake another set of surveys.

We have bats living in our loft, will it stop our development?

Bats almost never stop development, providing mitigation is in place. We will conduct a suite of emergence/re-entry surveys to understand where and how they are accessing your loft. The roosts will need to be replaced with something similar too, and there are ways to incorporate bat-friendly features in your new development e.g. integrated bat boxes or special ‘bat tiles’ (see below for some examples). Rarely, your proposals will need to be totally revised to mitigate for bats.

I submitted a planning application for a dormer window/kitchen extension/roof replacement five years ago that didn't need a bat survey, what's changed?

A lot! Increasing development in the UK has had a huge impact on bats. All 18 species of bat have been affected - their numbers have dropped considerably over the last century due to loss of roosts and foraging habitat. LPAs are now stricter with ensuring bat roosts are not missed during works. Roosts are easily damaged or destroyed by accident, and without prior mitigation they are irreplaceable. Your LPA will ask for bat surveys to be completed before they will consider an application.

Bats receive full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2019), which make them a European Protected Species. It is an offence to kill, injure or disturb bats and their roosts. It is important to note that a bat roost receives the same protection even when bats are not currently using it.

What if I don’t get a survey done? Or if my proposals fall under ‘permitted development’ do I even need a bat survey?

You should seek an ecologist’s professional advice if you are unsure. ‘Prior approval’ criteria do not apply to ecology - bats are a fully protected species and their protection goes above planning. If you are caught damaging/destroying a bat roost without a licence from Natural England, you can be sent to prison for up to 6 months and get an unlimited fine. In some cases, these fines have been tens of thousands of pounds for destroying one roost.

How much does a bat survey cost?

It varies considerably. For small sites, expect to pay £300-£600 for the PRA and report, but if further emergence/re-entry surveys are required with a report containing a mitigation plan then expect to pay another £700-£1000 upwards. This depends how many surveys are required, how many surveyors, and how much time is required to check infrared footage and conduct sound analysis of the bat detector recordings. For larger sites please get in touch for a quote. With all this in mind, we charge competitive rates and never quote for unnecessary surveys.

Why does your report contain information on providing habitat for birds, hedgehogs, reptiles and other animals as well as bats?

Why not? 😊 They shouldn’t be left out, and we want to make our local area a better place for all wildlife, that’s why we always include special enhancement recommendations for wildlife that is relevant to your site and give you ideas on how you can make habitats for them. These enhancements also fall in line with national and local planning policy too.

Final reiteration… Think about the bats first!

If you are wondering whether or not you’ll need a survey, just ask! We are here to help the whole way through your planning application. Send us your drawings or ideas early on, and we will be able to advise. Start thinking of bat surveys as seriously as you would a highways, topographical or drainage survey and you will find the process much easier.


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