If you have a development project in the Manchester or Greater Manchester area, your local planning authority may well ask you for a bat survey.
If there is evidence that bats may be present on your site, mitigation and compensation measures will be needed before your development proposal can proceed.
Protection for bats
Bats are a European protected species and disturbing bats without permission is a criminal offence. Relevant legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects bats, and all 17 European bat species breeding in the UK are protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, making it an offence to deliberately kill or deliberately capture bats, destroy a bat roost, obstruct access or in any way harm bats.
However, the discovery of bats on your site does not mean the end of your development project; it means that detailed guidance must be followed involving bat surveys to avoid disturbing bats. Your development proposals may well be able to proceed through the planning process providing that the necessary mitigation work is carried out if bats are present.
Development in Manchester
Many historic structures and features in and around Manchester offer suitable roosting habitats for bats, from former industrial mills to mature houses with slate roofs or roof tiles. Bat roosts or feeding and resting places can be found in trees, lofts, buildings, under weather boarding or loose hanging tiles, and near foraging areas and natural habitats such as parks.
However, bats need not be a barrier to development. Manchester is one of the UK’s fastest-growing cities with a population of 552,858, while the Greater Manchester area which includes the city centre and several outlying cities, totals over 2.55 million people. It’s a regional centre for finance, commerce, retail and leisure, and development is encouraged: the Manchester Core Strategy 2012-2027 aims for excellence in urban design and environmental quality. A significant amount of high-quality housing is needed to fulfill demand and support growth, and Manchester City Council wants to facilitate the re-use of previously developed land and promote sustainable lifetime neighbourhoods.
The different types of bat surveys
If there is a reasonable likelihood that there are bats on a development site, or they are discovered following a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal/Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, a bat survey will be needed. Bat surveys can only be conducted by a licensed ecologist.
Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA), Phase 1 Bat Survey or Scoping Bat Survey
This is the first stage in the bat survey process. It involves a desk study and an internal and external inspection of trees and buildings to identify other potential roosting sites and look for dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains and feeding remains that indicate the presence of bats. During a Preliminary Roost Assessment, a bat surveyor will outline the findings and provide detailed guidance about the next steps. If no evidence of bats is found, development works should be able to proceed; if bat species are present on the site, mitigation measures and further surveys may be required.
Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS), also known as bat activity surveys and nocturnal bat surveys
This second stage bat survey is more detailed and involves dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys. Differing from a Preliminary Roost Assessment, this bat survey season is confined to the summer months between May and September. Bat surveys must be carried out by bat specialists in daylight hours and in good weather conditions: surveys can be disrupted by high winds and heavy rain. Bat Emergence Surveys involve licensed ecologists conducting two or three surveys at the site to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats. Using specialist equipment including bat detectors, they will be able to assess the species of bat from echolocation calls and establish population numbers and flight paths.
If no bats are present, the survey data will assure the local authority; if there is evidence of bats, the bat survey report will contain mitigation measures for dealing with the bats correctly in your planning application, which might include installing bat boxes or relocating bats.
While the two bat surveys above will enable you to secure planning permission, a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) may be needed to move or disturb bats or destroy roosts. If you need a bat mitigation class licence as part of your planning application because your scheme will affect bats, these are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.
Find an experienced ecological consultancy for your bat surveys
If you need a bat survey, it’s important to choose a firm with fully licensed ecologists who are experienced in conducting bat surveys according to best practice for the relevant local authorities. In the first instance, a PRA will be needed and it is vital to be aware of the bat survey season timeframes if a BERS survey is then required.
Bat surveyors should be well versed in the legislation relating to bats, and as well as providing a bat survey report, will be able to offer further advice about the necessary steps you may need to take to secure planning consent. A bat surveyor will also be able to advise on the bat survey cost.