Need a bat survey in Reading?

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 Reading

If you are planning a development in Reading, you’ll probably need to provide a bat survey with your planning application.

If bats are present on your site, it doesn’t mean your scheme can’t go ahead, but you may need to follow guidance and carry out bat mitigation and compensation measures first.

A drone shot of Reading and the green space surrounding it.

Bats and the law

Bats are a highly protected species and disturbing them without permission is a criminal offence. 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 intentionally kill or deliberately capture bats, destroy a bat roost, recklessly disturb bats, obstruct their access or harm bats in any way.

If bat presence is detected on your site, detailed guidance must be followed involving bat surveys to avoid disturbing bats. Providing that the necessary mitigation work is carried out, your proposals may well be able to achieve planning permission.

Bats in Berkshire

Of the 18 UK bat species, 12 are believed to be breeding or resident here, including the barbastelle bat, the brown long eared bat, the common pipistrelle bat, Daubenton’s bat, Natterer’s bat, the noctule bat, the serotime bat and the soprano pipistrelle bat.

A Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat, a common UK bat species resident in Berkshire.

Reading and development

While primarily an urban area, Reading has natural landscape features including two areas of ancient woodland that offer bat habitats. Bats roost in lofts, in buildings under weather boarding or loose roof tiles, and their foraging areas include parks and green space.

While sustainability and protecting green space are priorities, the Reading Borough Local Plan takes a positive approach to development and the council wants to work proactively with applicants to find solutions so that proposals can be approved where possible. The Plan, which extends to 2036, wants to see sustainable development of housing and businesses, with new housing built to adapt to climate change, using renewable technologies and with trees and planting to connect habitat. Proposals should protect and enhance historical features, areas of environmental and historic importance, listed buildings, conservation areas, historic parks, and gardens.

Reading is a hub for the ICT industry, professional services, and pharmaceuticals which has led to a demand for improved infrastructure, employment space, and housing. The Plan includes provision for at least 15,847 houses in Reading Borough between 2013-2036, averaging 689 per year. However, development sites are limited due to the amount of floodplain and public space, so opportunities are restricted to previously developed land.

A noctule bat.

Bat survey guidelines

Bat surveys can only be conducted by qualified ecologists. If there is a reasonable likelihood that there are bats present on a development site, or they are discovered following a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal/Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, a bat survey will be needed.

Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA), Phase 1 Bat Survey or Scoping Bat Survey

During this initial assessment in the bat survey process, an ecological consultant will carry out a desk study and an on-site initial internal and external inspection of trees and buildings to look for physical evidence of the presence of bats. They will identify bat roosts and potential roosting sites and search for dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains and prey remains. The ecological surveyor will outline the findings of the Preliminary Roost Assessment and provide detailed guidance about the next steps. If bat species are present on the site, mitigation measures and a full bat survey may be required by your local planning authority. If no evidence of the presence of bats is found, development projects should be able to proceed through the planning system.

Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS), also known as bat activity surveys

Unlike the Preliminary Roost Assessment which can be carried out at any time of the year, bat emergence and re-entry surveys have a strict survey season restricted to the summer months between May and September. This second stage bat survey involves dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys carried out in daylight hours and in good weather conditions: bat surveys can be disrupted by high winds and heavy rain. Bat Emergence Surveys involve licensed ecologists conducting two or three internal and external inspections at the site to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats. Using specialist equipment including bat detectors, qualified ecologists assess the bat species from echolocation calls and calculate the bat population.

If there is evidence of bats, the bat survey report will contain mitigation measures for dealing with the bats correctly in your application for planning permission; measures might include installing bat boxes or relocating bats. Further bat surveys may be recommended but if bats are not found, the survey report will satisfy the local authority.

While the Preliminary Roost Assessment and Bat Emergence and Re-entry Survey will enable you to secure planning permission, as bats are a protected species, a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) may be needed to move, disturb bats, or destroy roosts. If your development proposal will affect bats and you need a bat mitigation class licence as part of your application for planning permission, these are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Bat boxes sited near foraging habitats can be a useful mitigation measure if your development plans will impact bats.

Find an experienced ecological consultancy

If you need bat surveys, identify a firm that employs fully licensed ecologists who are experienced in conducting bat surveys according to best practice for the relevant local planning authority. Remember that preliminary roost assessments can be carried out at any time of year but there are seasonal restrictions for bat emergence and re-entry surveys which could disrupt your timeframes.

As well as compiling a bat report, an ecological consultant will advise about the mitigation strategy necessary to secure planning permission for your development project.

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