If you have a development project in Northamptonshire, your local authority may well ask you for a bat survey.
If bats are found on your site, mitigation and compensation measures will need to be carried out before your development can proceed.
Protection for bats
As a European protected species, bats are highly safeguarded, and disturbing bats without permission is a criminal offence. Legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects bats and all 17 European species of bat breeding in the UK are fully protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, preventing them from harm or disturbance or the destruction of bat roosts. However, the discovery of bats on your development site does not mean the end for your project, but it does mean that a protocol must be followed.
Bat species in Northamptonshire
Many species of bat are present in the county including the brown long-eared bat, common pipistrelle bat, soprano pipistrelle bat, Noctule bat, Natterer’s bat, whiskered bat, Daubenton’s bat, Brandt’s bat and the Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat. Bats in Northamptonshire are monitored by the Nene Valley Bats group, while the Bat Conservation Trust supports bat groups across the UK.
This east midlands county is characterised by low hills and several rivers, the main one being the River Nene along with the River Avon, Welland, Cherwell, and Great Ouse. Its wealth of thatch and stone houses, waterways, and historic houses provide an ideal habitat for bats. Their roosts or feeding and resting places can be found in trees, lofts, buildings, under weather boarding or loose hanging tiles, and near foraging areas such as woods and parks.
Development in Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire covers 913 square miles and has a population of 747,622. It has two councils, North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council, which both want to see high-quality development while protecting the natural environment.
The North Northamptonshire Joint Strategy 2011-2031 aims to concentrate new development on designated growth towns and connected settlements and enhance the framework of green infrastructure. While housing and employment targets are high, protecting north Northamptonshire’s environment is vital and there is an emphasis on urban design principles and ensuring that new development connects well to existing settlements. Rushden is identified as a main growth town for delivering housing and jobs.
The West Northamptonshire Local Development Scheme has targets for housing, jobs, and development locations: it wants to see high-quality development in sustainable places, protecting the natural and built environment.
Bat survey stages
If there is evidence of 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 bat consultant.
Preliminary Roost Assessments, Phase 1 Bat Surveys or Scoping Bat Surveys
This is the first stage in the bat survey process. It involves a desk study followed by an internal and external inspection of trees and buildings to identify potential roosting locations and look for bat carcasses, bat droppings, and food remains that indicate the presence of bats. The report will outline the surveyor’s findings and the next steps to take. If there is no evidence of bats, a development scheme should be able to proceed; if there is evidence of bats, mitigation measures and further surveys may be required.
Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys, also known as bat activity surveys and nocturnal bat surveys
The second stage bat survey is a dawn re-entry and dusk emergence survey. While a Preliminary Roost Assessment can be carried out at any time of year, this survey may only be conducted between May and September and it involves several site visits by ecologists who 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, along with bat population numbers and flight paths. If the survey reports a likely absence of bats, this will assure the local authority; if the survey does find bats, the report will contain mitigation measures for managing the bats correctly in your planning application. Suitable mitigation measures might include installing bat boxes or relocating bats.
The two reports above will enable you to secure planning permission, but if you need to move bats or destroy a bat roost you may need A European Protected Species Licence. If you need a bat mitigation licence as part of your planning application, they are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. A bat surveyor will be able to help with your application.
Find an experienced ecological consultancy
If you need a bat survey, the first step is to find a firm with fully licensed ecologists who are experienced in conducting bat surveys for the relevant local authority. As well as producing a bat report, a professional consultant will be able to advise you on the steps you need to take to secure a successful planning application.