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Bat survey Birmingham

Birmingham’s numerous parks, former industrial buildings and mature housing stock offer bats many roosting opportunities. If bats are suspected to inhabit your development site, a bat survey will be needed to either confirm bat presence and recommend mitigation measures to allow your scheme to proceed, or rule out bat occupancy.

Victoria Square in Birmingham.

Birmingham in the West Midlands

Birmingham City Council wants to promote development while protecting green spaces in the UK’s second city, and since the 1980s Birmingham has undergone a process of regeneration and environmental improvement. While the city is known for its economic strengths in financial services, the motor industry, digital technology and medical technologies, it is also a green city with over a fifth of its area dedicated to parks and gardens: it has 30 conservation areas and 15 parks. An important green space is Sutton Park, a national nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest covering 2,400 acres.

Development in Birmingham

Birmingham aims to be a green city by 2031: the Local Plan contains policies for building sustainable neighbourhoods and improving green areas. The Birmingham Development Plan 2031 includes areas for development and regeneration along with a sustainable growth strategy. Priorities include brownfield regeneration, protecting heritage assets and the historic environment and enhancing the natural environment and biodiversity.

The council is approving development and regeneration projects provided that they comply with the laws surrounding bats and other protected species. For example, a six-acre site at Montague Street in Digbeth will deliver 1,000 homes and 25,000 feet of development space. When submitting planning applications, developers must consider whether they will impact bats using buildings and trees nearby as roosting sites. A bat survey will provide planning officers with the information they need to defend a decision to grant planning permission.

Bats present in Birmingham

Bats find roosting opportunities in older residential buildings, barn conversions or industrial buildings such as mills, where they squeeze through tiny gaps in slate roofs, lifted tiles and gable ends to access dry warm spaces in loft cavities, ideal for bat roosts.

12 of the UK’s 18 bat species are found in Birmingham. They include the Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandti), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentoni), Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus), and the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).

Bats in Birmingham are safeguarded by the Birmingham & Black Country Bat Group while bats nationally are monitored by the Bat Conservation Trust, Natural England and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

Bats and UK legislation

Disturbing bats without permission is a criminal offence. All 17 European bat species breeding in the UK are protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, making it an offence to intentionally kill or deliberately capture bats, destroy a bat roost, recklessly disturb bats, obstruct access or harm bats in any way. Relevant legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, also protects bats.

If bat presence is detected on your site, the correct guidance must be followed to avoid harming bats. A bat survey will determine the best approach to take and providing that the legal obligation is fulfilled and recommended mitigation work is carried out, development projects may be able to proceed through the planning process.

Protected species: a whiskered bat.

Bat surveys

If there is a reasonable likelihood that bats are present on a development site, or if they are discovered during a preliminary ecological appraisal (pea survey), an extended phase 1 habitat survey, or an ecological impact assessment, the necessary bat surveys will be needed.

Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA), Phase 1 Bat Survey

This is the first step in the bat survey process and involves an ecological consultant carrying out a desk study followed by a site visit to make a physical inspection of trees and buildings, searching for evidence of bats. They will look for bat roosts, features that would support roosting bats, dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains and feeding remains. The preliminary roost assessment findings will include guidance about the next steps: if bats are found, a full bat survey may be required by your local planning authority; if there is no evidence of bats, the scheme should be able to proceed through the planning system.

Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS)

These second-stage bat surveys are also known as bat activity surveys, bat scoping surveys, bat emergence surveys and dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys. They involve a team of ecological consultants making multiple visits to the site to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats on buildings with the potential to host bat roosts. They will use specialist equipment including bat detectors to assess bat species and local bat populations.

If bats are found, mitigation measures to ensure they are not disturbed by the development plans will be included in survey data in the bat report: mitigation strategies might include installing bat boxes near foraging habitats or relocating bats. If the survey finds a likely absence of bats, the bat report should enable the local planning authority to grant planning consent.

Bat emergence surveys have ecological constraints and can only be carried out in the bat season: the optimal period is between May and September.

Preliminary roost assessments and bat emergence and surveys can lead to a local authority granting planning permission, but if you need to move, disturb bats, or destroy roosts, as bats are a protected species, a European Protected Species Licence may be required. Bat mitigation licences are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Further surveys

in some cases, a local planning authority will require further protected species surveys, such as a hibernating bats survey, a great crested newt survey, or habitat surveys, before approving a planning application.

Arranging bat surveys in Birmingham

If you need bat surveys, identify a firm that employs fully licensed ecologists who are experienced in conducting bat surveys according to best practice guidelines for the relevant local planning authority in the West Midlands. The ecological consultancy should employ fully licenced professional ecologists who can offer expert advice to help you with your planning application.

It’s important to consider your timeframes: while preliminary roost assessments can be carried out year-round, there are seasonal restrictions for bat emergence and re-entry surveys.

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