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Bat survey Bath

Founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD as a thermal spa, Bath became fashionable in the Georgian era when iconic buildings such as the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and the Pump Room were built. Today, the Roman remains and Georgian buildings attract around 13.2 million visitors annually. Tourism is a major part of the economy and new development must be sympathetic to Bath’s historic qualities.

The Circus in Bath, north Somerset.

Bath and development

As the only UK city to be a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, high priority is placed on conserving Bath’s historical and cultural assets. The Bath and North East Somerset Council development plan aims to protect and enhance the city’s unique appeal as a beautiful place to visit in the south west of England.

However, parts of the city have been designated for development within the central area and Enterprise Zone. The council wants to improve the city aesthetically and make it welcoming to business; this will boost the local economy while upgrading the built environment. Other aims include improving the quality of the environment by promoting a reduced carbon economy that is energy and resource-conscious using renewable energy. The Plan wants to increase housebuilding to support the city’s economic growth: while development on the city’s edges must be sympathetic to the landscape, new housing will help regenerate many parts of Bath.

Protection for bats

As a European protected species, bats are highly safeguarded by law. Legislation protecting bats is contained in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

It is a criminal offence to intentionally kill or deliberately capture bats, destroy bat roosts, recklessly disturb bats, obstruct their access or harm bats in any way. Discovering bats on your proposed development site means that guidance must be followed to avoid disturbing bats. There are serious penalties for not obeying the law regarding bats: fines and prosecution can result from disturbing bat habitat, harming bats without engaging the services of an ecological consultant, or the incorrect use of a European protected species licence. However, providing that the law is observed, and the recommended mitigation work is carried out to protect bats, schemes may well be able to achieve planning permission.

Bats and protected species surveys

To comply with the legal obligations surrounding bats, developers must demonstrate that bats on their proposed development site are correctly considered from the start. A bat survey from an experienced ecological consultancy will show that potential risks to bats are properly assessed and managed. Bat surveys should reassure local authorities, allowing them to grant consent to planning applications.

Bat species in Bath

The Somerset Bat Group, a partner group of the Bat Conservation Trust, monitors bats in the county which hosts 16 of the 17 species of resident British bats. The Mendip Bats Special Area of Conservation in the limestone caves of the Mendip Hills in north Somerset hosts hibernation sites for lesser and greater horseshoe bats.

Other species include Bechstein’s bats, Natterer’s bats, noctule bats, brown long-eared bats, common pipistrelle bats, soprano pipistrelle bats, brown long eared bats, Daubenton’s bats, serotine bats, whiskered bats, Brandt’s bats, barbastelle bats, grey long eared bats, Leisler’s bats, Nathusius’ pipistrelle bats and Bechstein’s bats.

Protected species surveys: only qualified ecologists can conduct bat surveys for species such as greater horseshoe bats.

Bat surveys

The requirement for a bat survey may follow bat sightings, a reasonable likelihood of bat activity on the site, or preliminary ecological appraisals that often identify the possible presence of bats or bat habitat. A bat survey will provide further information required by the local planning authority as an application goes through the planning process.

The Preliminary Roost Assessment

The phase 1 preliminary roost assessment or bat scoping survey is the first step in the bat survey process, often following preliminary ecological appraisals. These bat surveys involve an ecological consultant making an internal and external inspection of buildings and trees on the development site and nearby area, searching for roosting bats, bat carcasses, bat droppings or feeding remains. They will also look for features suitable for hosting a hibernation roost, maternity roost, or other forms of bat roosts.

If bats are present and the surveyor concludes that the proposed development scheme could disturb them in any way, further bat surveys will be needed, usually starting with a bat activity survey or bat emergence and re-entry survey. If the surveyor finds that there is a likely absence of bats, the bat survey report will make this clear: no further bat surveys will be needed, and the scheme should be able to proceed through the planning process with the local council.

The Bat Emergence and Re-entry Survey

Also known as bat activity surveys or dusk and dawn bat surveys, these protected species surveys must be carried out in daylight hours and good weather conditions during the summer months between May and September. Over several visits to the site at dusk and dawn, an ecology team will monitor suspected bat entry and exit points on buildings and record bat activity.

This bat survey involves specialist equipment including infrared cameras and bat detectors enabling the identification of bat species from bat calls and a calculation of bat populations. If bats are detected, bat mitigation strategies will be recommended by the ecologist in the bat report to ensure that bats are correctly dealt with in your planning application, which could include installing bat boxes or relocating bats. If bats are not found, the report will clarify this and the local authority should be minded to grant planning permission. Depending on the findings of the bat survey, and any other ecological constraints found on site, further protected species surveys may be required by the local planning authority, such as great crested newt surveys or reptile surveys.

While the preliminary roost assessment and bat emergence and re-entry survey will support planning applications and enable you to secure planning consent, if you need to move or disturb bats, Natural England bat mitigation licences may be required.

Bat surveys in Bath

It’s important to engage an experienced ecological consultancy with a track record of undertaking bat surveys and ecological services for the local planning authority. It must employ fully licensed ecological surveyors with previous experience of protected species surveys, as you will need to rely on their expert advice about bat mitigation to help you achieve success with planning applications.

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