Bat survey Newcastle

Whenever bats are likely to impact your land or property development, a bat survey will be needed to help decide on the next steps to take.

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Bat survey Newcastle

If you have a development project in Newcastle upon Tyne, you will likely need a bat survey during the planning process. If bats are found on your site, a bat survey will include recommendations that could enable your scheme to achieve planning permission.

The Tyne Bridge spans the River Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead.

Finding bats

Bats roost in older buildings often accessing dry lofts via lifted tiles, gaps in slate roofs and gable ends. Bats also rest and roost in trees and hedgerows and are drawn to areas by rivers and streams where insects hovering over the water provide prey.

There are several bat species in the Newcastle upon Tyne area including brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus), Brandt’s bats (Myotis brandti), Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii), Natterer’s bats (Myotis nattereri), common pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), whiskered bats (Myotis mystacinus), soprano pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), Nathusius’ pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus nathusii), Alcathoe bats (Myotis alcathoe) and Noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula).

The Northumberland Bat Group records bat activity locally, while nationally bats are safeguarded by the Bat Conservation Trust, Natural England, DEFRA and CIEEM.

Protected species: a Noctule bat, one of the species that may be found during bat surveys in Newcastle.

Bats and the law

As bats are a European-protected species, it is a criminal offence to disturb bats or roosts without permission. All 17 European bat species breeding in the UK are protected by Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 which makes it an offence to intentionally kill or deliberately capture bats, destroy a bat roost, recklessly disturb bats, obstruct access or harm bats in any way. Legislation protecting bats is also contained in The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

The discovery of bats on a development site means that a strict procedure must be followed. A bat survey will recommend mitigation measures to take if appropriate, which may enable your scheme to proceed.

Newcastle and development

Plans to build more houses and create job opportunities are at the heart of the Core Strategy and Urban Core Plan for Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne 2010-2030. The population is expected to increase to over 500,000 and the council has identified a need for around 30,000 new homes in sustainable locations; these must be built to high design standards to enhance the area’s distinctiveness and be adaptable to climate change.

Development must be designed to protect and enhance biodiversity: significant areas of high landscape quality surround Newcastle, such as the Derwent Valley, Town Moor, urban parks Leazes Park and Saltwell Park, along with extensive areas of ancient semi-natural woodlands and numerous protected sites and species.

The Plan aims to see Newcastle’s urban core continuing to be the economic hub of the north east, where most retail, employment and education is based: it must contain a mix of employment sites and housing to ensure its growth, with more jobs being created in new technology areas such as offshore engineering and the digital economy. Newcastle’s neighbourhood areas are to be improved to create attractive communities with access to jobs, open space and recreation: areas including Benwell-Scotswood, Bensham, Birtley and Walker are to be made into aspirational areas with high-quality housing. Rural and villages areas will be boosted by more housing and improved transport connections to create a diverse rural economy.

Bat surveys

The requirement for a bat survey is triggered by sightings of bats on your proposed development site, or if they have been identified during ecological surveys including a preliminary ecological appraisal, an extended phase 1 habitat survey, or an ecological impact assessment.

The preliminary roost assessment

Also known as a scoping survey, the preliminary roost assessment is the first stage in the bat survey process. It involves an ecological consultant conducting a desk study followed by a site visit to carry out a physical inspection of the site to look for features that could support roosting bats. As well as an internal and external inspection of buildings, trees in close proximity to the site will be examined for evidence of bats such as roosts, dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains and feeding remains. If bat roosts or other signs of bats are found, a further bat survey may be required. However, if the bat surveyor finds a likely absence of bats, the bat report should enable the local planning authority to grant planning permission. Preliminary roost assessments can be carried out all year round.

Bat emergence and re-entry surveys

Bat emergence and re-entry surveys (BERS) have a strict survey window and can only be carried out in the summer months between May and September. These bat surveys are also known as dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys, bat activity surveys, bat scoping surveys, bat emergence surveys and phase 2 surveys. On several occasions, ecological consultants will visit the site to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats on buildings that could potentially contain bat roosts. Specialist equipment including bat detectors will enable consultants to determine bat species and assess population numbers.

If bats are found, the bat report will recommend a mitigation strategy to manage the bats correctly; possible mitigation steps could include installing bat boxes or relocating bats. Implementing the mitigation measures correctly could enable the planning application to proceed. If bats are not found, planning permission should be obtainable.

In some cases, it is necessary to move or disturb bats, in which case a European Protected Species Licence will be required. Bat mitigation licences are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Further surveys

If the above surveys identify the presence of other protected species or habitats on the proposed development site, further ecological surveys or European protected species surveys will be needed before a planning application can be granted. Other potential ecology surveys include great crested newt surveys, habitat surveys, reptile surveys, or bird surveys.

Arranging a bat survey in Newcastle

The first step is to engage an ecological consultancy with experience in carrying out a wide range of ecological surveys. The surveyors you deal with should be fully licensed professional ecologists used to working to good practice guidelines for the local planning authority: taking these precautionary steps will give you confidence that you will receive expert advice.

It’s worth remembering that bat emergence surveys are time-sensitive, so factor that into your timeframes. Preliminary ecological appraisals and preliminary roost assessments, however, may be carried out year-round.

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