Any applications for planning permission in Leicestershire may well need to be accompanied by a bat survey.
If there are bats present on your development site, it doesn’t mean that your scheme cannot proceed, but mitigation and compensation measures may need to be carried out first to satisfy the local authority.
Development in Leicestershire
Leicestershire County Council’s Strategic Plan 2022-26 highlights a need for housing, transport and infrastructure for sustainable economic growth. The population is rising and there is a need for 96,580 new houses by 2031, as well as roads, schools, employment land, and other infrastructure. Alongside this the county council wants to protect nature, the local environment and preserve Leicestershire’s
Bat habitat in Leicestershire
This East Midlands county comprises 300 settlements and is home to cities including Loughborough, Melton Mowbray, Hinckley, Market Harborough and Coalville.
While Leicestershire’s capital city, Leicester, is a highly developed urban centre and home to over 400,000 inhabitants, the wider county is extensively rural in nature, with 80% of the land used for agriculture. Its largely rural nature provides habitat for several European Protected Species and legislation makes it a legal offence to harm or disturb protected species of animals or plants.
To achieve success with a planning application for a development site that might impact bats, a developer is likely to need a bat survey.
Bat species in Leicestershire
Bats present in the county include Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandti), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daudentonii), Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Nauthusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), soprano pipistrelle bat (pipistrellus pygmaeus) and the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).
Bat groups in Leicestershire
Leicestershire and Rutland Bat Group protects bats locally, while bats nationwide are protected by the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England. The Leicestershire and Rutland Bat Group provides information about bats and advises on bat issues, such as finding roosting bats. It also keeps records of bat distribution and populations.
If a development site presents the likelihood of the presence of bats or there are proposed works that could potentially impact bats, a bat survey will be required. It may be the case that an earlier ecological survey such as a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Ecological Impact Assessment will have triggered the need for further survey work to provide additional information.
The stage one bat survey is known as a preliminary roost assessment. This involves a bat surveyor inspecting a site for signs of bat activity. The surveyor will look for evidence of bats such as bat roosts, feeding remains, bat droppings, dead bat carcasses, and elements that could provide suitable habitat to support roosting bats. If the ecological surveyor detects no evidence of the presence of bats on the site, a recommendation for planning permission to be granted will be sent to the local authority. However, if the presence of bats cannot be eliminated, ecological consultants will need to carry out further surveys known as bat emergence and re-entry surveys (BERS).
Bat emergence and re entry surveys
These surveys are also known as bat activity surveys or dusk entry and dawn re entry surveys, and they involve ecologists making a site visit on several occasions to monitor suspected entry and exit locations. There is a strict timeframe for this bat survey, which must be carried out between May and September. Ecologists will use specialist equipment including static bat detectors to record bat calls. The data obtained will enable them to assess bat species and population numbers.
Following the survey, the bat surveyor will compile a report summarising the assessment and its findings. It will include bat mitigation measures designed to ensure that the proposed scheme will not disturb bats; the information provided should meet the local authority’s conditions, enabling the planning application to be approved.
Find a qualified bat surveyor
Identify an ecological consultancy with experienced and fully licensed bat surveyors who can undertake bat surveys for the relevant local authority.
Remember that while preliminary roost assessments can be carried out at any time of year, the bat survey season means that bat emergence and re entry surveys can only be carried out between May and September, which could disrupt the time frame of development projects.
As well as completing a bat survey, a professional consultant will be able to advise on the necessary steps you may need to take to secure planning permission.