Bat survey Surrey

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Bat survey Surrey

Several UK bat species make their home in Surrey, so any planning application that may impact them will probably require a bat survey. If you are planning a development project and there are bats present on your site, you will need to follow guidance and carry out bat mitigation and compensation measures to enable your scheme to go ahead.

The North Downs in Surrey.

Surrey and development

While Surrey is a very green county with areas of Green Belt land, there is a high demand for housing, and house building is encouraged: it is one of the most densely populated shire counties in England with a population of 1.2m. Surrey is also the most wooded county in Great Britain: 22% of its area is woodland, compared to the national average of 12%, and it has designated conservation areas and semi-natural ancient woodland providing opportunities for roosting bats. The government has calculated that over 6,300 new homes are needed, and Surrey County Council aims to protect and create new habitats to support biodiversity alongside development.

Surrey’s 2050 Place Ambition document aims to promote `good growth’. It wants to see `proportionate and sustainable growth’ to sustain a strong economy, and improve the environment and people’s health in the cities. Local authorities have a positive attitude to development and are granting planning consents, which is evidenced by the number of housing and mixed-use development schemes and regeneration work. Alongside this, the county council plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. However, the Environmental Bill means that planning applications will be put under increasing scrutiny in terms of their impact on the natural world.

If you need to submit a bat survey, it will need to contain sound evidence as to why your development project should be allowed. If there are signs of bats on your proposed site, the bat report must include details of appropriate mitigation.

Species of bat found in Surrey

Many species of bat are found in this southern England county, including barbastelle bats (Barbastella barbastellus), Bechstein’s bats (Myotis bechsteinii), brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus), greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros) and various types of pipistrelle bats.

In the natural environment, old trees, waterways, rivers and streams all have high potential to support roosting bats due to high insect numbers providing a food source. Tree lines also help bats to navigate. Man-made structures that are attractive to roosting bats include loft voids in old buildings under roof tiles: bats can easily squeeze under hanging tiles or gaps in slate tiles.

While bats nationwide are protected by the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), ecologists in The Surrey Bat Group will advise members of the public about bats. The Surrey Wildlife Trust can also offer advice.

Bats and the law

Developers’ obligations

Bats are a highly protected species and disturbing them without permission is a criminal offence. Relevant legislation protecting bats is laid out 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 access or harm bats in any way.

Bats are also protected under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and guidance is also available from organisations including the Bat Conservation Trust, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and Natural England.

Specific guidance to support roosting bats

As a result, the protection afforded to roosting bats, commuting bats and hibernating bats is a material consideration when it comes to securing planning consent. Detailed guidance must be followed involving bat surveys to avoid disturbing bats. If bats are discovered either before or during development, you must manage them correctly to avoid committing a criminal offence.

The necessary bat surveys must be carried out by bat ecologists who will ensure that bat mitigation is in place to protect native bats and increase the likelihood of a successful planning application.

A professional ecologist checks for signs of bats.

Guidelines for bat surveys

If there is a reasonable likelihood that bats are 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 Assessments (PRAs) also known as Phase 1 Bat Surveys or Scoping Bat Surveys

This initial assessment involves a bat ecologist conducting a desk study and a physical inspection of trees and buildings to look for evidence of bat activity. The site will be examined for potential roosting features, hibernating bats, dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains and feeding remains that would indicate the presence of bats. The Preliminary Roost Assessment will clarify the findings and the bat surveyor will provide detailed guidance about the next steps. If bats are present your local authority is likely to require further surveys along with appropriate mitigation measures before allowing your development project to proceed. If there are no signs of bats, the proposed works should be able to go ahead.

Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS): also known as Bat Activity Surveys

While a PRA can be carried out at any time of the year, BERS has a strict survey season; the optimal time is between May and September. This second stage bat survey involves dusk emergence surveys and dawn re-entry surveys carried out in good weather conditions: 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. Experienced ecologists use specialist equipment including bat detectors to identify species from echolocation calls and can calculate bat populations.

If there is bat occupancy, the survey report will contain appropriate mitigation measures for dealing with the bats correctly in your planning application. Such measures might include installing bat boxes or relocating bats. If there are no signs of bats, evidence in the survey report will satisfy the local authority and allow your scheme to progress through the planning process.

While PRAs and BERS surveys will enable you to secure planning permission, 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, these are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. A bat surveyor can help with licence applications.

Find an experienced ecological consultancy

It’s important to find a firm with fully licensed and experienced ecologists who are used to conducting bat surveys for the relevant local authority. A professional ecologist can provide expert advice about any further ecology services you may need to secure planning permission. Bear in mind that while PRAs can be carried out at any time of year, there are seasonal restrictions for Bat Emergence and Re-entry Surveys which could disrupt the timetable of your proposed works, so planning ahead is advisable.

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