Need a bat survey in West Sussex?

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 West Sussex

West Sussex in south east England has a variety of suitable bat habitats and all 17 species of bats breeding in the UK are found here.

Development schemes must demonstrate that if bats are present, they will be managed according to the strict legislation that safeguards them as a protected species. A bat survey will prove to the local council that you have considered bats and carried out the appropriate mitigation measures on-site to protect them.

Lofts in period buildings like these in Horsham, West Sussex, may offer habitat to roosting bats.

West Sussex and development

A 2003 assessment of the landscape character identified 42 unique areas including the High Weald, the Low Weald, the South Coast Plain, the South Downs, chalk upland and the Wealdon Greensand. West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has land management guidelines in place for each character area.

The south east of the county is undergoing considerable development and planning authorities are willing to allow schemes; for instance, working with WSCC, the Horsham Growth Deal aims to boost the delivery of new homes and jobs, through strategic sites and improvements to transport and community infrastructure to integrate new town centre communities. The North of Horsham developments will provide up to 4,750 new homes and employment opportunities. Brighton and Hove City Council has allowed schemes to improve the eastern seafront through the Black Rock rejuvenation project and is working to get new homes built to cater to growing needs.

However, the discovery of bats on a development site will affect your scheme; nonetheless, mitigation strategies can be implemented to protect bats and avoid disturbing bat roosts and habitat for foraging and commuting bats.

West Sussex and bat habitat

Older buildings with gaps in slate roofs and gable ends are common in many West Sussex towns and offer bat roosting opportunities: bats can squeeze through tiny gaps to access dry loft spaces. Brighton and Worthing, for example, have these features on terraced houses that are over 100 years old, and the lines of houses offer bats a navigational aid. Bats also roost in tree hollows, so West Sussex’s many wooded areas offer sites for roosting bats and hibernating bats, along with areas near water that attract insects which bats can feed on.

Bats in West Sussex

This area is home to two of the UK’s rare bats. It is the most south easterly breeding population of Greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), and also hosts the Greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis). While all the UK’s bat species are found in West Sussex, the most common are the Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandti), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri), noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).

Rare species: Greater mouse-eared bats are found in West Sussex.

Bats and the law

A highly protected species, bats are safeguarded by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. The Sussex Bat Group monitors bats in West and East Sussex, providing information to members of the public about bats and dealing with injured bats. The Bat Conservation Trust provides national guidance about bats.

Bat surveys

Bat survey requirements

If you have a development scheme and are aware that there are bats on the site, a bat survey will be required. A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey might have identified bat roosts as part of its assessment of all protected species present, which would trigger the need for a Preliminary Roost Assessment to investigate further before the local planning authority can give planning consent.

Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)

This is the first stage in the bat survey process and is also known as a bat scoping survey. It involves a bat surveyor making a site visit to inspect buildings and trees, looking for signs of the presence of bats such as bat carcasses, bat droppings, feeding remains, or potential roosting features.

If bat roosts or other evidence of bat activity is found, the bat surveyor will assess whether the development proposals would have an impact on the bats: if so, further bat surveys may be required. If bats are not found on the site, or the bat surveyor concludes that the development scheme would not affect bats, the bat report should satisfy the local authority.

Bat Emergence and Re-entry Surveys (BERS)

Also known as bat emergence surveys, nocturnal bat surveys, bat activity surveys, or dusk and dawn surveys, this bat survey involves ecological consultants visiting the site to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats on buildings on several occasions. Using specialist equipment such as infrared cameras and bat detectors, bat surveyors will identify different bat species from bat calls and assess population numbers.

Bat surveyors will recommend suitable mitigation measures for the site, such as installing bat boxes. The bat survey report will contain details of the survey methods and provide the local authority with all the information needed to approve a planning application. In some cases, it may be necessary to relocate bats, in which case ecological consultants must hold European Protected Species Licences or Bat Mitigation Class Licences which are issued by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Timing your bat survey

Bat emergence surveys must be carried out during the summer months between May and September, whereas a preliminary roost assessment can be undertaken at any time of year. The bat survey process may identify other protected species or sensitive habitats, leading to further surveys being required such as a great crested newt survey, a badger survey, a barn owl survey, or a protected habitat survey.

Do you need a bat survey in West Sussex?

The first step is to identify West Sussex bat surveyors with experience in conducting bat surveys for your local planning authority. The firm must employ fully licensed ecological consultants as you will need to rely on their expert advice to help you through the planning process and achieve planning permission for your scheme. Remember to consider the timing of your bat surveys: bat emergence surveys can only take place between April and October (the best time is between May and September), while a preliminary roost assessment can be carried out year round.

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