As several species of roosting bat exist in Buckinghamshire, your development plans are likely to involve bat surveys. To ensure that your planning application goes smoothly, you may need to arrange a bat survey to meet the requirements of the local planning authority.
Bat habitat in Buckinghamshire
Bats are attracted to both urban and natural areas. Buckinghamshire provides many features that provide habitat for bats, including water sources such as streams, ponds, and ditches which host small insects feeding prey for bats. Several rivers pass through the county, including the Thames, Wye, Ouzel, Tove, and Misbourne, while trees provide roosting opportunities and shelter, and hedgerows help bats navigate by echolocation.
Barns and bridges provide perfect bat habitat: barns because they are often rural and quiet, they have rafters and a large roof cavity to keep bats warm and safe, and bridges because they are close to water and insects and can offer shelter for hibernating or raising young in gaps in brickwork. Bats also find ideal habitats in urban spaces such as historic buildings, and disused properties waiting to be demolished are also often occupied by bats.
Buckinghamshire and development
Buckinghamshire Council’s Draft Local Plan lays out its vision for 2040 which includes maintaining the area of Green Belt, protecting the Chiltern Hills’ Area of Natural Beauty and other valued landscapes from harmful development. Alongside this, the council wants to create sustainable new communities via well-designed housing of all types, along with employment sites and supporting infrastructure. Development continues at a pace in the county, and more is planned. A Housing Delivery Plan is underway that has accessed £90 million of housing infrastructure funding that will be used to develop a major site near the M1.
Bat species in Buckinghamshire
Many species of bat are found in Buckinghamshire: particular species include the common pipistrelle, the rare barbastelle, the Noctule bat, the soprano pipistrelle bat, Daubentons’ bat, the whiskered bat, Brandt’s bat, and the Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat. Bat activity in the county is monitored by the North Bucks Bat Group and the Berks and South Bucks Bat Group, working in partnership with the Bat Conservation Trust. All bats are protected by law, specifically the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.
Plans that could affect bats
Proceeding with development projects that could harm wildlife can be challenging, and in many cases, your local planning authority will require a bat survey to enable you to obtain planning permission: this applies to private developers as much as to national infrastructure projects.
Evidence of features that bats may use near your site increases the chances of finding bats, and some activities are more likely to impact bat populations than others. If any of the local authorities in Buckinghamshire consider that your plans risk displacing bats or negatively impacting the local bat population, they could require bat surveys and bat reports.
How do bat surveys work?
The first step is a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) which involves an ecologist carrying out a site visit to look for evidence of bats, such as bat droppings, bat carcasses or feeding remains. They will also look for features that could offer suitable locations for roosting bats such as gaps in trees, buildings, loose roof tiles or hanging tiles, all of which are common on agricultural buildings. The ecological survey will assess whether the development plans are likely to disturb bats if there is evidence of their presence.
If the consultant ecologist concludes that there is a likely absence of bats, they will produce a report that will satisfy the requirement of the planning application. If it is not possible to rule out bat occupancy, further bat surveys will be needed starting with a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS): these are also known as Bat Emergence Surveys, Bat Activity Surveys or Dusk and Dawn Re-Entry Surveys. These bat surveys require several visits to the proposed development site by an ecology team during dusk and dawn in the bat season, between May and September, to assess activity.
Consultants use bat detectors and note bats’ entry and exit points to buildings. Population numbers are calculated, and bat species are identified. The resulting ecology report will show the findings and note the likely impact of development on bats, any ecological constraints caused by the development, and bat mitigation measures that can be taken to allow the scheme to go ahead. The report can then be submitted to the local planning authority as part of the information needed to secure planning permission.
Find an ecological consultancy
If you need a bat survey, identify a firm with fully licensed ecologists with extensive experience in providing bat surveys for the relevant local planning authority. Surveyors will be able to offer advice about the surveys you need to secure planning permission and advise on the bat survey cost. Before you embark on this process, it’s essential to be aware of the bat survey season framework, especially if a BERS survey is required.