Even though it features as the UK’s largest urban area by a significant distance, the City of London and broader Greater London is a hive of biodiversity, with more than 14,000 different species of recorded animals, fungi and plants present. It is also widely known as a green city due to the 3,000 parks and designated open spaces that account for 18% of the entire land area.
From the longlist of open spaces in London, categories include commons, council parks, garden squares, greenways, lavender fields and royal parks, such as Beckenham Place Park, Cadogan Place, Richmond Park and Thames Chase. Between numerous rural blocks and more than 880,000 trees, London unsurprisingly plays host to eight of the 18 species of bat native to the United Kingdom.
Legal protections initiated by the government and enforced by the local authorities forbid harm from coming to bats and bat roosts. Under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, bats are fully protected and possess legal protection from being captured, disturbed, injured, killed or traded. Likewise, the protections prevent damage, destruction or obstruction from coming to bat roosts.
If ever a development site has suspected presence of a European protected species, the developer is obligated to reach out for ecology services, instructing an ecological consultancy to undertake the corresponding protected species surveys. In terms of bats, both land and property developments can be affected due to the equal likelihood of occupancy in trees and buildings. For a planning project to move forwards, a bat survey will be needed.
Implications of Bats on a Planning Project
A development project can affect bats in a number of ways, not helped by how temperamental the species is. For instance, bats alternate roosting locations based on the purpose of the bat roost, such as hibernation roosts for prolonged periods of rest and maternity roosts for taking care of baby bats in a safe and warm environment. Whenever roosting sites are compromised, the potential for danger rises and bats may be harmed or forced to relocate.
Rural areas are often more appetising roosting locations due to the vast selection of trees and hedgerows to create roosts in, as well as the abundance of insects in the surrounding land for foraging bats to feast on. Buildings, however, are also known to support roosting bats, with barns, bridges, churches, sheds and lofts in houses matching the criteria that bats regard as suitable when choosing a new roost. As bats can occupy both rural and urban areas, it is just as likely for them to affect land and property developments.
Alongside the previously mentioned UK legislation, bats are protected by several responsible bodies including Natural England / Natural Resources Wales, the Bat Conservation Trust and the bat group of the local area – in the case of London, the London Bat Group. A developer’s accomplishment in meeting the requirements of UK legislation, the listed governing bodies and the local council works both ways, as showing an intention to minimise impacts to bats on development sites will guarantee safety to the bats but also allow the developer to successfully achieve planning consent for their development project.
Bat Surveying and Reporting
It will only be evident that bat surveys are needed as a result of the developer’s observations, down to the nature of the development site if likely roosting locations are present, or if a prior Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) pointed towards expected bat occupancy. From there, bat surveys will consist of two types: a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) and – if needed based on the outcome of the PRA – Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS).
Also known as a scoping bat survey, a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) is the first stage in the bat survey process. It starts with a desk study to establish existing information regarding known bat activity in the area before leading into a physical site inspection. The licensed ecologist will look for indications that bats are on the site and all present buildings, such as the feeding remains of prey, bat carcasses, droppings or even features that could act as viable roosting locations, now or in the future.
Following the stage one bat survey, the ecological consultant will come to the conclusion that no bats are present and a bat report can be created to reflect that, assisting the planning application submitted to the local planning authority, or if any possibility of bats on the site remains, they will insist on conducting Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS). Unlike the PRA, a BERS can only be carried out between May and September, involving multiple bat consultants attending the site several times at dusk and dawn.
Sometimes alternatively titled bat activity surveys, dusk and dawn surveys and bat emergence surveys, a BERS assessment focuses on confirming entry and exit points across the site, present bat species, and approximate bat populations. For complete accuracy in the results, specialist equipment such as infrared cameras and bat detectors are used, enabling the bat surveyors to record video of bats entering and existing the site and sound of echolocation calls to determine species of bat.
Immediately after either form of bat survey, the bat ecologist will put a bat report together to detail next steps that will allow the development project to progress without harming any present bat species. It will include vital mitigation measures such as suggestions to alter the planning project and new additions that will support bats such as bat boxes, and using this information, the developer should see no issue in receiving planning permission from the local planning authority.
Get in Touch for a Bat Survey Quote
Whether you are certain of bats on your development site or simply need ecology surveys as proof that they aren’t, get in touch and we can point you in the direction of a consultancy that specialises in ecological services such as bat surveys and assessments over other European protected species. We often work with a multitude of different individuals and professionals, and as a result of that, we have grown a strong relationship with an ecology team that produce a high level service to clients.
By visiting our contact page and providing us with the details of your site and project, you can allow us to produce a free quote based on the unique specifications of your development. We can then work with you to decide on a desirable date to visit your site for a bat survey, produce a bat report that reflects the findings from the assessment, and give you and your local authority all you need to meet planning requirements accordingly and secure a planning condition.