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Bat survey Bournemouth

Bat surveys are generally required alongside applications for planning consent in this established seaside resort. While discovering bats may mean that development proposals must be altered, putting the correct mitigation strategies in place could allow a scheme to proceed and achieve planning permission.

Bournemouth town centre and pier.

Development in Bournemouth

A popular resort in the south of England since the end of the 18th century, Bournemouth is surrounded by internationally designated heathlands and Green Belt, resulting in strict conditions being placed on permitted building. The New Forest National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is close by and Bournemouth has 10 Nature Reserves.

As a coastal garden town, there are policies in The Local Plan’s Core Strategy to protect heathland, nature conservation and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Creating and maintaining a network of green spaces is a priority to secure the town’s visitor appeal and encourage wildlife.

However, the council acknowledges the need for sustainable growth and development especially to attract young professionals to the town which provides jobs in the financial sector and the tourism industry. A major development is planned for Oxford Gardens in the Lansdowne area of the town centre, where the tallest building in Bournemouth is to be built at 29 storeys high, overtaking nearby The Helm in Holdenshurst Road standing at 19 storeys. Planning permission has also been granted for the town’s second tallest tower: The Laureate will be a three-tower residential block comprising 247 apartments also in Lansdowne, replacing the Telecom House building.

European protected species: A Nathusius’ pipistrelle, a rare species of bat, is found in Dorset.

Bat species present in Bournemouth

Dorset is an exceptional county in that all 17 of the species of bat breeding in the UK are found there; the rarest species being the mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) and Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii). Other common species include the grey long eared bat (Plecotus austriacus), greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), the Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandti), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri), noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).

Bournemouth’s Victorian and Edwardian architecture offers opportunities for roosting bats which typically access dry loft spaces in older buildings via gaps in slate roofs, gable ends or lifted tiles. Bats in Bournemouth are monitored by The Dorset Bat Group, affiliated to The Bat Conservation Trust which provides national guidance about bats.

Legal protection for bats

A highly protected species, bats are covered by legislation 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 a bat roost, recklessly disturb bats, obstruct their access or harm bats in any way. Breaching the law surrounding bats can incur serious penalties; bat surveys conducted by experienced ecologists will ensure that the law is obeyed and provide information to allow your planning application to proceed.

Bat surveys

A bat survey is generally required before full planning permission can be secured for development proposals that may impact bats from commercial developers or private individuals. Bat survey requirements include providing planning authorities with an overall picture of a site, enabling them to make an informed decision. Bat surveys may be needed following an ecological survey such as a preliminary ecological appraisal, an ecological impact assessment, or bat sightings.

The Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)

During this early stage bat survey, an ecological surveyor will make a site visit to search for evidence of bat activity. The surveyor will look for suitable bat habitats for roost sites, bat roosts, feeding remains, bat droppings, urine stains, socialising bats and dead bat carcasses. If this internal and external inspection finds no evidence of bat activity, this will be recorded in the bat survey report, which should satisfy the local authority that planning consent can be granted. If the preliminary roost survey reveals roosting bats or other bat evidence, a further bat survey, an emergence and re entry survey will be needed before an application can proceed through the planning process.

Bat Emergence and Re entry Surveys (BERS)

These surveys are also known as bat activity surveys, re entry surveys or dusk emergence surveys. The process involves experienced ecologists surveying the proposed development site on several occasions, monitoring potential entry and exit points for bats at set locations on buildings with the potential to host bat roosts. Bat activity surveys involve the use of specialist equipment such as automated bat detectors that record bat calls that help identify bat species and numbers. As part of the survey work, ecological consultants will record bat activity and all other bat evidence noted.

The bat survey report will recommend bat mitigation measures to ensure that the proposed development will not disturb roosting bats; such strategies often involve installing bat boxes in the right place. The bat report should provide the local authority with the information it needs to grant planning consent. Bat activity surveys have strict seasonal constraints and can only be carried out in the bat season between the summer months of May to September.

Installing bat boxes may form part of the bat mitigation strategy in bat surveys.

Further surveys

The two bat surveys above may indicate the need for further investigation at a proposed development site. If other protected species or habitats are identified, further information may be required from ecological surveys such as surveys for great crested newts, barn owl surveys, bat hibernation surveys or habitat surveys to consider environmental management.

Bat emergence and re entry surveys and preliminary roost assessment surveys can enable a local authority to grant consent to planning applications, however, it is sometimes necessary to move or disturb bats or destroy a bat roost and this requires a European Protected Species Licence. A bat licence application must be made to Natural England.

Arranging bat surveys in Bournemouth

To ensure that you receive expert advice, the first step is to identify an ecological consultancy with experience in completing bat surveys according to good practice guidelines. It’s important to check that the firm employs fully licensed ecological consultants who can guide you through the bat survey process.

Bear in mind that while a preliminary roost assessment can be carried out year-round, dusk emergence surveys can only be carried out between May and September, so it’s important to factor this into your works schedule to avoid delays.

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