Brandts bat in a gloved hand

Bats and Planning

Posted on October 22, 2019 · Posted in Blog, works

Bats and Planning – What!

The most common of questions we are asked at Cherryfield Ecology is generally why do I need to have a bat survey for planning?

Although this is simple to answer, in that, bats are found in human dwellings as their natural habitats have been eroded by development, habitat loss and farming. It also creates more questions. Understandably the average homeowner or developer will need to know the answers. This article aims to provide you, the planning applicant, with a one-stop shop for the answers you are looking for.

          Are bats protected? and Why!  

Yes, all bat species in the UK are fully protected by law. They are an EU protected species, meaning that the protection afforded to them is as high as it gets in the UK (at the moment this is unlikely to change post-Brexit).

It is an offence for any person or persons to: intentionally kill, injure or take a bat. Under the EU Law (Habitats Reg’s) it is an offence to deliberately capture or kill a bat, therefore any works affecting them or potentially affecting them must be considered in a planning application, permitted development or general building maintenance.

Bats are protected due to human activities that affect their long-term survival. Development in the UK is one of those activities. Others include farming practices; tree works and health and safety works. Many bats now rely on human structures for protection and shelter. When we want to change these structures, it can affect the bats habitat.

          What is a bat survey?

Put simply a bat survey is a means of checking whether the building, structure or tree you are planning to do works to houses or could house bats.

For planning purposes there is a three staged process that follows the BCT good practice guidelines

Stage one is a day – time inspection (also known as a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)) of the structures to be affected, it can be conducted year round as the licenced bat worker is looking for evidence of bat use or the potential for bats to use the structure when evidence is lacking e.g. small gaps under tiles for instance.

The second stage is nighttime surveys (known as Emergence Surveys), time limited to between May and September, when bats are fully active it involves surveyors watching the building for bats entering or exiting. Counting the number of bats present and establishing species that are present.

The third stage is the licensing process. This can only be undertaken post grant of planning (or if no planning consent is required e.g. permitted development) and the surveys have established the species, population and entry/exit points. A licence is required when a breach of the law cannot be avoided e.g. the building bats are using is being demolished.

          Why can full surveys only be conducted in the summer?

This is not because bat workers don’t want to do any work over the winter period! Bats become less active as the weather cools, mating in the autumn period and then hibernating over the coldest months (BCT life cycle of a British bat). As many bats mate and hibernate in different places to where they spend their summers and are happily conserving energy by lowering their metabolic rate and not moving around, it would make winter night-time surveys pointless. Bats simply aren’t going to be in the structure or if they are, they are well hidden. Bat workers are therefore unable to do the night-time surveys.

It is worth noting here that planning authorities can’t condition surveys, due to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, page 49 onwards) stating that protected species surveys are a material consideration in the system and all information relating to protected species must be undertaken prior to the grant of planning.

In real terms this means that surveys can delay planning but will not stop planning. For instance, if a PRA undertaken in October finds bat evidence, it means surveys can’t be undertaken until the following May.

          What happens if I have bats?

First and foremost, do not to panic!!

Bats will not prevent you from doing any of the works you want to do. The first thing your ecologist will do is try and find a way of not breaking the law. If that is not possible then the ecologist will advise that a European Protected Species License (EPSL) is required. For example, bats are using your house, this needs to be demolished and therefore breaking the law is unavoidable = an EPS license is required.

EPSL’s allow what would otherwise be illegal to become legal. It means that works may be restricted to certain timeframes, that you will have to replace the bats habitat and on occasion agree to monitoring of the new roosts installed.

          OK, a license has been issued, what next?

There are currently two types of mitigation licenses available for planning works. The first is currently known as the Bat Mitigation Class License (BMCL). It is used for low conservation status bat roosts, where low numbers of common species have been found in the structure. This license covers approx. 95% of licenses that Cherryfield Ecology undertake and is the quicker and cheaper of the two licenses. The second is known as the standard license, this takes longer for Natural England to issue and costs more. This is used for larger, higher conservation status roosts, such as maternity roosts.

No matter which license your ecologist has suggested and helped you obtain the procedure is effectively the same. You follow the license! There is often a misconception that once a license has been issued it allows you to do as you wish, this isn’t the case! An EPS license is often timebound, has certain terms and conditions and requires ecological supervision. If you are unsure of anything relating to the issued license discuss this with your ecologist, that is what they are there for and all should be happy to help.

          Need help or advice for your planning permission?

Contact the Cherryfield Ecology Team to discuss your project, get a free quote or learn more about bats – here