Bats are secretive animals and a great deal is still unknown about their habits and behaviour. The fact that they fly at night, make sounds which we are unable to hear and leave almost no clues to indicate their presence make surveying for them a highly skilled practice. We rely on experience and the latest technology to make sure that the results we produce are accurate reliable and up to the standard required by Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage.
UES can provide a full spectrum of bat related advice, survey work, reports, licence applications, mitigation and habitat / roost creation.
The type of bat survey required will depend on your individual project; a large rural or offshore wind farm will need a different type of survey and a different level of survey effort than a barn conversion or a loft conversion in an urban centre. However, typically we will start with a bat scoping survey to identify any field signs of bats and potential for bats to be using the site. Scoping surveys can be undertaken at any time of year.
Should evidence of bat activity be found or there is potential for the site to be used by roosting bats further bat presence / absence surveys may be required. These more detailed surveys assess how bats are using the site including numbers, species and roosting points. Bat presence / absence surveys can only be conducted during the bat survey season, May to September inclusive.
Bat surveys should only be undertaken by licenced bat ecologists. UES employees include Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage licensed bat ecologists, who are legally allowed to; disturb bats as part of surveying, enter known bat roosts and handle bats.
There are 18 species of bat living in the UK (17 of which are breeding). Bats need different roosting conditions at different times of the year and they will often move around to find a roost that meets their needs. In summer, female bats form maternity roosts while in winter, bats use hibernation roosts. Most bats in the UK evolved to live in trees and caves, but many have now adapted to roost in buildings including barns, houses, tunnels and bridges.
Bats are susceptible to changes in their environment and their numbers have decreased dramatically over the last century. Changes in agricultural practices, the loss of woodlands and hedgerows and the expansion of our towns and cities, have taken valuable habitat from our native bat species. As a result of this bats have become protected by UK and European legislation.
All species of bat are fully protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). In summary, you may commit a criminal offence if you:
• Deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat;
• Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats;
• Damage or destroy the breeding or resting place (roost) of a bat;
• Possess a bat (alive or dead), or any part of a bat;
• Intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost;
• Possess a GCN, or any part of it, unless acquired lawfully;
• Sell, barter, exchange or transport or offer for sale bats or parts of them.
Any disturbance of a bat occupying a roost can lead to prosecution. Disturbance can be caused by noise, vibration and artificial lighting. Penalties include fines of £5000 per bat, imprisonment and the seizure of equipment.
As a protected species Local Planning Authority’s (LPA) will often ask for a bat survey to be undertaken as part of planning if the proposed development has the potential to impact on bats or their habitats. It should be noted that developments which are not subject to planning permission are still subject to the above legislation.
A bat method statement will be required if roosting bats are recorded on site. The method statement will need to be submitted with your planning application in order to demonstrate to the Local Planning Authority how you will ensure no protected species will be adversely affected by the proposed development, and demonstrate how you will secure a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) once planning permission has been granted. Our experienced and licensed ecologists can provide advice on mitigation methods. These may include the retention of bat roosts and foraging and commuting habitats, design modifications to building plans, advice on timing of works to minimise disturbance, and the provision of new habitats and roosts such as the erection of bat boxes.
Any action or development which has the potential to impact on bats or their habitats must be carried out under a licence issued by Natural England, Natural Resources Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage.
In England, developments with low numbers of common bat species can be completed under a bat low impact class licence issued by Natural England. Toby Hart, UES’ Managing Director, is one of only a handful of people to have successfully registered for a BLICL issued by Natural England. This new streamlined licensing process permits works that have low impacts on certain bat species and certain roost types, but which still needed to be licensed in order to meet legal requirements.
Developments with higher numbers of bats / roosts or rarer bat species can be completed under a European protected species licence issued by Natural England. The EPSL has to be completed by a licenced bat ecologist with previous experience of similar projects, and must be based on up to date survey information.
All developments with roosting bats in Wales and Scotland must be carried out under a EPS licence.
Once you are ready to start on site an ecological clerk of works will be required in order to ensure the EPSL is fully implemented and that no bats are harmed throughout the development. This usually includes an ecological toolbox talk to contractors, roost inspections, supervision during soft demolition of the roosts, and translocation of bats. Only licenced bat ecologists are allowed to handle bats.
UES specialise in managing large capital infrastructure projects where ecological issues can pose significant risks to overall development programmes and construction timelines. Many of our projects come from repeat business and recommendations. Our client base includes developers, planners, architects, engineers, home owners, LPA’s, and statutory nature organisations. In short, we have significant knowledge of what is required to achieve planning permission without going to prohibitively expensive lengths to get it. Our commercial clients include:
• Barratt Wilson Homes
• Cheshire East Council
• Cheshire Wildlife Trust
• Crown Estates
• Denbighshire County Council
• Education Funding Agency
• Kier Construction
• Laing O’Rourke
• Liverpool County Council
• Muse Developments
• National Grid
• Network Rail
• North Wales Police
• Seddon Homes
• United Utilities PLC
• Wrexham Council
UES are a corporate member of the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), who are a charity that does a lot of good work for the conservation of bats. They organise and run lots of projects with the aim of creating better habitats for bats. For more information visit the BCT website: http://www.bats.org.uk/