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Bat survey Derby

While finding roosting bats on a development site is likely to cause delays if you are seeking planning permission, it does not mean that the scheme cannot go ahead. A bat survey will clarify the situation and recommend mitigation strategies that in many cases will allow the proposed works to proceed without harming bats.

The River Derwent in Derby city centre.

The planning outlook in the north east city of Derby

Situated on the edge of the Peak District National Park, Derby’s economic strengths lie in manufacturing cars, planes and trains. It is home to brands Rolls-Royce, Bombardier and Toyota. A minimum of 11,000 new homes are to be built in and around the city centre, the Osmaston Triangle, land on Boulton Moor at Alvaston and on several greenfield locations around the city. A large number of these homes are planned as urban extensions to the city beyond its boundaries to meet housing needs on land to the east of Mackworth Estate and to the south, south west and south east of Derby city.

The Derby City Centre masterplan is actively promoting development to create new jobs and build 1,900 houses by 2030. However, planning permission will not be granted at the expense of the environment, and constraints include areas of greenspace, a World Heritage Site at the heart of the city and several conservation areas.

The Derby City Local Plan Core Strategy aims to make Derby the UK’s number one high-tech city based on engineering and skilled employment by 2028:  major high-tech employment areas include Derby Infinity Park and St Modwen Park. Development in the city centre will focus on regeneration rather than expansion, with investment focused on the River Derwen Corridor, the Castleward area and Rosehill Peartree. The suburbs are defined by `green wedges’ preventing one community from spreading into another and some of these wedges will be narrowed to provide housing land.

Bats in Derbyshire

Bats may be found in the Derby’s mature buildings as they find roosting space in dry lofts, accessing them through lifted tiles, gaps in slate roofs and gable ends. There’s also a likelihood of bats being present on sites close to the River Derwent as bats feed on insects attracted to water, and hedgerows and trees on the Derbyshire lowlands can also provide bat habitat. Acceptable bat mitigation will depend on the rarity of the species in question and the quality of the habitat.

Bats present in the city and nearby countryside include brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus), Brandt’s bats (Myotis brandti), Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii), Natterer’s bats (Myotis nattereri), common pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and whiskered bats (Myotis mystacinus).

Protected species: a whiskered bat, one of the species that may be found during a bat survey in Derby.

Protection for bats

The Derbyshire Bat Group advises on bat issues in Derby and Derbyshire. Other organisations that support bats include the Bat Conservation Trust, Natural England, DEFRA and CIEEM. Disturbing bats or bat roosts without permission is a criminal offence. Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 protects all 17 European bat species breeding in the UK, 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.

Legislation protecting bats is also contained in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. A strict procedure must be followed if bats are discovered on your development site. A bat survey will explain the steps to take and if mitigation measures are appropriate, once they are implemented, development proposals may well be able to continue through the local planning process.

Bat surveys

The requirement for bat surveys often follows bat sightings or evidence of bats may be detected during a preliminary ecological appraisal (pea survey), an extended phase 1 habitat survey, an ecological impact assessment, or other ecological surveys.

The Phase 1 preliminary roost assessment

The preliminary roost assessment or scoping survey is the first stage bat survey. It can be conducted year-round and involves a desk study followed by an internal and external inspection of the site for features that could provide suitable bat roost opportunities. Bat surveyors will inspect buildings and trees in close proximity to the site, looking for evidence of bat activity such as bat roosts, dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains, feeding remains or even a maternity roost. If bat roosts or other evidence of bats is discovered, a phase 2 full bat survey may be required. If there is no evidence of roosting bats, planning applications should be able to procced.

The phase 2 bat emergence and re-entry survey

Also known as bat activity surveys, bat scoping surveys, emergence surveys and dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys, they involve a team of professional ecologists visiting the site on several occasions to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats on buildings where bat roosts are suspected. Specialist equipment including bat detectors will enable consultants to assess bat species and population numbers.

If bats are found, the bat report will contain mitigation measures to ensure that they will not be harmed by the proposed development scheme. When suitable mitigation strategies, such as installing bat boxes or relocating bats, are implemented, a planning application is likely to succeed. If the bat survey reports a likely absence of bats, the local planning authority should be able to grant planning permission. Phase 2 surveys can only be carried out in the bat season between May and September. If the survey finds other protected species or habitats, further surveys will be needed, and details will be clarified in the bat report.

While planning applications can be granted following preliminary roost assessments and bat emergence surveys, in some cases it is necessary to move or disturb bats, or even destroy bat roosts. In such cases, a European Protected Species Licence will be required; bat mitigation licences are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Further surveys

The site investigations might reveal the presence of other protected species or habitats, indicating the requirement for further ecological surveys or European protected species surveys before a planning application can be granted. These can include hibernating bat surveys, great crested newt surveys, habitat surveys, reptile surveys or bird surveys.

Arranging a bat survey in Derby

It’s important to identify an ecological consultancy that employs fully licensed professional ecologists who are experienced in undertaking bat surveys according to good practice guidelines for the local planning authority. Bat surveyors with a good track record will give you confidence that you will receive expert advice to help you progress with your planning application.

It’s also worth thinking about your timeframes: while a preliminary ecological appraisal and preliminary roost assessment can be carried out year-round, there are seasonal restrictions for bat emergence and re-entry surveys.

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