Need a bat survey in Berkshire?

Whenever bats are likely to impact your land or property development, a bat survey will be needed to help decide on the next steps to take.

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Bat survey Berkshire

Large expanses of Berkshire countryside are protected by environmental designations such as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which severely restrict the areas suitable for development, putting applications for planning permission under scrutiny. Any development scheme in Berkshire is likely to require a bat survey: if bats are present, plans may still be able to proceed if the correct mitigation measures are put in place.

Maidenhead and the River Thames.

Development in Berkshire

The numerous environmental designations mean that West Berkshire is highly constrained in development terms: just 15% of its area is available for potential development in the Local Plan process. The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation covers 74% of the district, while flood zones account for 7% and ancient woodlands cover 6%.

While local planning authorities want to protect the county’s green spaces, being situated in the built-up south east of the UK inevitably means there is high demand for housing and industrial development. Berkshire has a growth strategy based on a combination of prioritising development on brownfield land, and extending strategic urban areas.  

Berkshire is governed by six unitary authorities – West Berkshire Council, Reading Borough Council, Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council, Slough Borough Council, Bracknell Forest Council, and Wokingham Borough Council. The West Berkshire Local Plan Review which will take the area to 2039, proposes to deliver between 8,721 and 9,146 homes by 2039 to meet local needs.

Bat species in Berkshire

12 of the 18 bat species in the UK are thought to be breeding or resident in Berkshire: common pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), Barbastelle bats (Barbastella barbastellus) brown long eared bats (Plecotus auritus), Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii), Natterer’s bats (Myotis nattereri), Noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula) and Serotine bats (Eptesicus serotinus).

The Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii) is resident but not confirmed to be breeding in Berkshire, while Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii) and the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus) are also present but not confirmed as resident, according to the Berks & South Bucks Bat Group, which provides information about local bats. All UK species of bats are protected by The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) which operates under Natural England guidelines for the correct procedure relating to bats and bat surveys.

Protection for bats

As a protected species, bats are subject to high levels of legal safeguarding under 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.

Protected species: a common pipistrelle bat.

Bat surveys

If bats are known to inhabit a development site or evidence of bats, such as a bat roost, is found during a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, a Preliminary Roost Assessment will be needed to satisfy the local council.

Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)

Following a desktop study, this bat survey involves a bat ecologist physically inspecting the site to look for evidence of the presence of bats. An inspection of trees and buildings will be carried out as the bat consultant searches for roosting bats, bat droppings, feeding remains, bat carcasses, and potential bat roost sites.

If the bat survey finds evidence of bats such as bat roosts or potential bat roost opportunities, an assessment will be made about whether development proposals would disturb them. If bats would be disturbed, further bat surveys will be required. However, if the PRA conclusion is a likely absence of bats or that bats would not be impacted by the proposals, the local authority can be informed and the scheme should be able to proceed.

Bat emergence and re-entry surveys

These second-stage bat surveys are a more in-depth assessment of the site and are also referred to as bat emergence surveys or bat activity surveys. Qualified ecologists will conduct an internal and external inspection of the property, and over several occasions will monitor the site at dusk and dawn to check potential entry and exit points for bats. This bat survey requires the use of advanced survey tools that allow surveyors to identify different species of bats from bat calls and enable them to calculate bat numbers.

Depending on the survey findings, the bat survey report will recommend that suitable mitigation measures are carried out, such as installing bat boxes or possibly relocating bats. The bat survey recommendations, once implemented, should allow the local council to support an application for planning permission. Bat activity surveys can only be carried out in the summer months between May and September.

In some instances, it may be necessary to move or disturb bats: to do this, consultants must hold European Protected Species Licences or Bat Mitigation Class Licences: these are issued by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Do you need a bat survey in Berkshire?

If you are required to provide a bat survey as part of the planning permission process, the first step is to identify a firm that employs fully licensed ecologists. They should be experienced in carrying out bat surveys according to best practice for the local planning authority. Engaging a reputable ecology consultancy means that you will receive expert advice to help you work out the next steps to take towards achieving success with planning applications.

It is important to bear in mind that bat emergence surveys can only take place between April and October, with the optimal timeframe being between the summer months of May to September. A preliminary roost assessment, however, can be carried out at any time of year.

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