A bat survey is likely to be needed if you are seeking planning permission for a development in Norwich.
If bats are discovered, you will need to follow guidance and carry out mitigation measures to ensure that your scheme can go ahead.
How bats are protected by law
Bats are a highly protected species, and it’s a criminal offence to disturb them without permission. Bats are covered by legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, 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 intentionally kill or deliberately capture bats, destroy a bat roost, obstruct their access or harm bats in any way.
If bats are present on your proposed development site, it does not mean that your scheme cannot go ahead, but detailed guidance must be followed. You may well be able to secure planning permission, providing that the necessary mitigation work to protect bats is carried out.
The Norfolk and Norwich Bat Group protects and raises awareness of bats in Norfolk, where 11 of the 17 resident bat species in Britain have been recorded. The number of bat species in the local area includes nathusius pipistrelle and the leisler’s bat. The Norwich Bat Group can offer guidance on bats and there are bat monitoring centres assessing bat distribution across the area. The Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service also offers advice on protected species.
Norwich and development
A medieval city, Norwich has many ancient buildings offering potential roosting sites for bats, as well as important outlying nature sites. Bats frequently roost in lofts, under weatherboarding or loose roof tiles, and their foraging areas include parks and green spaces.
The city’s landmarks include its Norman medieval cathedral and castle, half-timbered houses, historic parks and cobbled lanes. There are also several wooded ridges in the city offering potential habitat for bats.
Norfolk is of course famous for The Broads, a National Park with over 125 miles of waterways; other outstanding natural sites include Breckland and Thetford Forest, along with nature reserves, fens water land and beaches.
Norwich is a thriving city, and the main employment sectors include financial services, manufacturing and the digital and creative industries. Norwich Council aims to protect and enhance the city’s natural, built and historic environment. Its development objectives include allocating land for housing in sustainable settlements and encouraging growth in the city centre, alongside protecting the important landscapes and areas of natural habitat surrounding it.
Other priorities include boosting economic growth, job creation and addressing climate change; throughout Broadland, Norwich and South Norfolk, high design standards are expected and low and zero carbon developments are encouraged. Development on brownfield land is a priority and new development will be sited away from areas at high flood risk.
How bat surveys work:
If there is a reasonable likelihood that bats are present on your proposed development site and you need a bat survey, you must engage a licenced ecologist. The first step is to arrange for a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal/Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, and if this indicates that bats could be present on the site, a bat survey will be needed.
Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA), Phase 1 Bat Survey or Scoping Bat Survey
A surveyor with experience in conducting bat surveys will carry out a desk study followed by an on-site inspection to look for physical evidence of bat activity. By making a thorough inspection of trees and buildings the surveyor will identify potential roosting sites and look for dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains and feeding remains that indicate the presence of bats. The findings of the Preliminary Roost Assessment will include detailed guidance about the next steps. If bats are detected on the site, your local planning authority may well require a full bat survey; if there’s no evidence of bats, your scheme should be able to proceed through the planning process.
Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS), or bat activity surveys
This is the second stage bat survey and it’s important to be aware that, unlike the Preliminary Roost Assessment, the Bat Emergence and Re-entry Survey season runs from mid May to September. This survey involves consultants carrying out dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys to record bat activity and the number of bat species present.
The surveys must be carried out in daylight hours and in good weather conditions: high winds and heavy rain can cause surveys to be cancelled. Bat surveyors will watch potential entry and exit points for bats from three different points over two or three visits, using specialist bat monitoring equipment including bat detectors to record acoustic data: there have been recent advances in the quality of the equipment used for bat surveys. If the survey reveals evidence of bats, the bat survey report will contain mitigation measures for dealing with the bats according to strict guidelines in your planning application. Proposed mitigation measures might include installing bat boxes or relocating bats. If bats are not found, they won’t be a reason for your planning authority rejecting your plans. In some cases bat hibernation surveys will be required.
The Preliminary Roost Assessment and Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys will enable you to secure planning permission, but you might need a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) if you have to move or disturb bats or destroy roosts. Licences are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.
Find a consultancy that’s experienced in bat surveys
If you need a Norfolk bat survey, it’s important to engage a consultancy that employs fully licensed ecologists. Make sure that they have experience in carrying out 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 obtain planning permission for your proposed development. It’s important to think carefully about the timing of your bat survey: while a PRA can be carried out at any time of year, the BERS survey season runs from mid May to September.