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Bat survey Brighton

If you are planning a property development in Brighton, the local authority is likely to require a bat survey alongside your application for planning permission. While the discovery of bats on a site may mean that your plans will have to be altered, implementing the correct mitigation measures could well allow a scheme to proceed.

Brighton town and beach. Source: Shutterstock.

Development in Brighton

Situated between the South Downs National Park and the sea in West Sussex, Brighton has little scope to expand. This town, in south east England, has dense residential housing in the centre, surrounded by suburban neighbourhoods. A new local development scheme is under review and the local council is balancing the demand for new housing with the importance of preserving Brighton’s cultural appeal.

Plans to regenerate the eastern seafront are contained in The Brighton and Hove City Council housing delivery action plan which aims to improve the environment while protecting Brighton’s world heritage assets: it boasts 3,400 listed buildings and 34 conservation areas.

Due to the constrained nature of Brighton, high densities of new and taller buildings on brownfield sites in the town centre are encouraged. However, the limited brownfield sites available often present design challenges due to heritage issues, access and parking. Some housing development is being permitted on greenfield sites on the fringe of the town, but this is limited due to the proximity of the South Downs National Park and environmental designations which create further constraints.

Greater mouse eared bats have been identified during bat surveys in south east England.

Bats found in West Sussex

All 17 of the UK’s breeding bat species are found in West Sussex. Bats roost in loft spaces in older buildings which they access via gaps in slate roofs or lifted tiles; Brighton has rows of terraced houses over 100 years old which provide ideal opportunities for roosting bats, and the rows also provide bats with a navigational aid.

West Sussex is home to two rare bat species: greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), and greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis). However, the most common bats are 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), Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).

Bats in West and East Sussex are monitored by The Sussex Bat Group, affiliated to The Bat Conservation Trust, which provides national guidance about bats.

Legal protections for bats

As a highly protected species, bats are safeguarded by 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: serious penalties can be imposed for breaching the legal protections surrounding bats.

Bat surveys

The need for bat surveys may be triggered by an ecological survey such as a preliminary ecological appraisal, an ecological impact assessment, or sightings of bats close to the development site. If your planning application could potentially impact bats, a bat survey will be required before you can secure planning permission. During bat surveys, licensed ecologists will make a thorough site assessment and provide evidence to support planning applications.

The Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)

This is the first stage bat survey which involves an ecological surveyor visiting the site to search for signs of bat activity. The surveyor will look for bat roosts, feeding remains, bat droppings, dead bat carcasses and suitable habitats for roost sites. If there is no evidence of the presence of bats, the bat report will record this and recommend that the planning officer grants planning consent for the development. If bats are discovered or their presence cannot be eliminated, a further bat survey known as a bat emergence and re entry survey will be needed.

Bat Emergence and Re entry Survey (BERS)

Also known as bat activity surveys, re entry surveys or dusk and dawn surveys, these ecological surveys involve ecological consultants surveying the proposed development site on several visits. The bat survey process involves monitoring potential entry and exit points for bats on buildings suspected to contain bat roosts. Surveyors will use specialist equipment such as advanced bat detectors that record bat calls, enabling an assessment of bat species and population numbers.

The ecology report will include detailed information including bat mitigation measures which when implemented, will ensure that the proposed scheme will not disturb bats: installing bat boxes may be an option. The bat report should satisfy the planning officer, allowing them to grant planning permission. It’s important to note that bat activity surveys can only be carried out in the bat season; the optimal time is between mid-May and September.

Further surveys

A preliminary roost assessment or emergence survey may identify other protected species or habitats, prompting the requirement for further surveys such as great crested newt surveys, barn owl surveys, bat hibernation surveys or habitat surveys which will investigate a site’s environmental management.

While the bat surveys mentioned above can enable the granting of permission for planning projects, some schemes need to move or disturb bats or destroy a bat roost site, in which case a European Protected Species Licence will be needed. If you need a bat mitigation class licence, they are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisation Natural England.

How to arrange bat surveys in Brighton

While the planning process can seem daunting, the first step is to find an ecological consultancy with experience in conducting bat surveys for the local planning authority. The firm should employ fully licensed bat surveyors, giving you confidence that you can rely on their expert ecological advice to guide you through the bat survey process and achieve planning permission.

To avoid delays with your timeframes, remember that while a preliminary roost assessment can be carried out at any time of year, emergence surveys can only be carried out between May and September.

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