Need a bat survey in East Sussex?

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 East Sussex

East Sussex has various habitat that is suitable for bats and all 17 species of bats breeding in the UK are found here. Any development proposals will need to demonstrate that if bats are encountered, they will be managed according to the legislation that protects bats. A bat survey will clarify to the local authority that you have diligently considered bats and put the appropriate mitigation measures in place to ensure they would be unaffected by your proposals.

A view across the town from Lewes Castle in south east England.

East Sussex and development

East Sussex County Council is divided into five local government districts: Lewes, Wealden, Rother, Eastbourne and Hastings, all of which are mindful of the need for housing and employment development in the county. According to The East Sussex Environmental Strategy, the population is estimated to increase by 10% by 2032 and there will be a 14% increase in households as the number of people per household declines. The findings indicate a need for 2,000 new homes each year in the county: local authorities must strike a balance between the requirement for development to cater to needs while conserving the natural environment.

East Sussex and bat habitat

With areas of ancient woodland and varied habitats across the county, great importance is placed on protecting places of ecological value. Large bodies of water such as Buckshole Reservoir in Hastings attract bats as insects drawn to the water make an ideal food source. Older buildings with slate roofs and gable ends common in many East Sussex towns offer bat roosting opportunities for many bat species.

Bat species in East Sussex

While all the UK bat species are found in East Sussex, the most common 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).

Protected species: a Brandt’s bat, one of the 17 bat species found in East Sussex.

The legislation surrounding bats

Harming bats or bat habitats is a criminal offence. 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. The Sussex Bat Group monitors bats in East Sussex and West Sussex; it collects data about the county’s bat populations and advises on how to conserve bats and deal with injured bats. National guidance on bats is provided by the Bat Conservation Trust.

Bat surveys

What triggers bat surveys?

This may be sightings of bats, or bat roosts may have been identified during a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey. Two types of bat survey will investigate further: firstly a Preliminary Roost Assessment, and if this indicates that bats are present, a Bat Emergence and Re-entry survey will be required.

Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRAs)

The preliminary roost assessment or bat scoping survey is the first stage in the bat survey process. A bat surveyor will inspect buildings and trees on the development site looking for evidence of bats such as bat droppings, feeding remains, bat carcasses or potential roosting features. If there is evidence of roosting bats or potential bat roost opportunities, the bat surveyor will assess whether the development proposals would disturb bats; and if so, further bat surveys will be needed. If the bat report concludes that there is a likely absence of bats on the site, or that the development would not impact bats, the local authority should be satisfied and will grant planning permission.

Bat Emergence and Re-entry surveys (BERS)

These bat surveys are also known as bat emergence surveys, bat activity surveys, dusk emergence surveys, dawn surveys, or dawn re-entry surveys when bats return. Over several visits, bat ecologists will visit the site to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats on buildings at dusk and dawn. They will use specialist equipment such as infrared cameras and bat detectors that allow surveyors to identify different species of bat from bat calls and enable them to calculate population numbers.

The bat survey report will recommend that suitable mitigation measures are carried out, such as installing bat boxes or possibly relocating bats. When implemented, the bat survey recommendations will provide the local authority with the information needed to approve planning permission. If it is necessary to move or disturb bats, consultants must hold European Protected Species Licences or a bat licence issued by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Timing bat surveys

The best time for BERS is during bats’ active season between the summer months of May and September, whereas a PRA can be undertaken year round. Bat surveys might highlight evidence of other protected species or valuable habitat, in which case further protected species surveys may be needed such as a great crested newt survey, a barn owl survey, a water vole survey, or a protected habitat survey.

Do you need a bat survey in East Sussex?

If your development site requires a bat survey, it’s important to engage an ecological consultancy that’s experienced in carrying out survey work for the relevant local planning authority in south east England. The firm should employ fully licensed ecologists as their expert advice will guide you through the necessary steps to achieving planning consent for your project. Bear in mind that bat emergence surveys can only take place between April and October, with the optimal timeframe being between May and September. A preliminary roost assessment can be carried out at any time of year.

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