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Bat survey Worcestershire

Development proposals for sites in Worcestershire where there is a likely presence of bats will require bat surveys to assure the local planning authority that laws relating to this European protected species are being complied with. If bats are discovered during bat surveys, mitigation strategies will be recommended for dealing with them correctly, allowing the local authority to grant planning consent.

Worcester City in Worcestershire.

Development in Worcestershire

Worcestershire County Council has a strategy in place to improve the county’s appeal to businesses and residents. A programme of works is underway to upgrade towns and provide attractive public spaces. Already completed is the state-of-the-art 10-acre Malvern Hills Science Park, and improvements are being made to Worcester City High Street. Major development is planned for the Shrub Hill Quarter which is set to be a vibrant new neighbourhood with high-quality employment, residential and leisure areas along with a new train station by 2042. The third phase of improvements to Redditch town centre is underway and upgrades to Bromsgrove town centre are planned.

Alongside development, the county council aims to protect this West Midlands county’s wealth of beautiful countryside. The Worcestershire Biodiversity Action Plan identifies 17 habitats and 26 species with particular conservation priority in the county. It includes traditional orchards, woodland, scrub, marsh and reedbed lakes, and species including otters, dormice, bats, water voles and great crested newts. There are five key areas of environmental importance: Bow Brook, Wyre Forest, Forest of Feckenham, Malvern Chase and the Laugherne Valley and Severn and Avon Vales.

Worcestershire’s diverse countryside includes four National Nature Reserves, two Special Areas of Conservation, 114 sites of Special Scientific Interest and 44 Roadside Verge Nature Reserves, and the council’s Local Sites Partnership, which includes Natural England and the Environment Agency, works with landowners to ensure they are managed appropriately.

Legislation and bats

Due to declining numbers, bats are a highly protected species. Legislation protecting all 17 European bat species breeding in the UK is contained in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. It is a criminal 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 activity is discovered on your proposed development site and your plans will likely impact bats, guidance to avoid disturbing bats must be followed. Bat surveys will assess an individual site’s characteristics and recommend the next steps to take. Providing that the law is obeyed and the recommended mitigation work is carried out to protect bats, your planning application may well be able to continue through the planning process.

Bats in Worcestershire

The county hosts 14 bat species, including the lesser horseshoe bat and the Bechstein’s bat, one of the UK’s rarest mammals: it favours broadleaved woodland common to Worcestershire. Often bats roost in dry loft conversions in older properties which they access via gaps in slate roofs, lifted tiles and gable ends. The Worcestershire Bat Group, a partner to the Bat Conservation Trust, monitors bat activity in the county and its activities include checking bat boxes and organising bat walks.

European protected species: a Bechstein’s bat.

Bat surveys

The need for bat surveys may be triggered by a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal / Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey which identified evidence of bats, sightings of bats, or a reasonable likelihood of the presence of bats.

Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)

The first stage in the bat survey process is also known as Phase 1 bat surveys or bat scoping surveys. This daytime bat survey involves an ecological surveyor carrying out a desk-based study before making a site visit to conduct an internal and external inspection of trees and buildings, searching for signs of a bat roost, potential roosting sites, roosting bats, dead bats, bat droppings, urine stains and prey remains.

The findings and details about the next steps will be included in the Preliminary Roost Assessment report. Further surveys will be required if bat activity is found on the site, however, if there is no evidence of bats the planning application should be able to proceed.

Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS)

These second-stage bat surveys are also known as bat emergence surveys, dusk and dawn re-entry surveys, and bat activity surveys. They must be carried out in good weather conditions: wind and rain can disrupt bat surveys. Ecological consultants conduct internal and external inspections at the proposed development site on several occasions to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats on buildings with the potential for hosting bat roosts.

Specialist equipment including bat detectors helps ecologists to identify bat species from echolocation calls and calculate bat numbers.

If ecologists detect the presence of bats, the survey report will contain mitigation strategies for correctly managing the bats in your planning application. Mitigation measures may include installing bat boxes or relocating bats. If the ecologists find no evidence of bat activity, the survey report should enable the local planning authority to grant planning permission.

Further surveys

Depending on the survey report, further bat surveys may be recommended, or European protected species surveys such as a breeding birds survey, a barn owl survey, a nesting birds survey, a reptile survey, a badger survey, or surveys for great crested newts. In some cases, tree surveys may also be recommended, or habitat surveys if environmental management is an issue on a site.

The Preliminary Roost Assessment and Bat Emergence and Re-entry Survey will enable you to achieve planning permission, but if you need to relocate or disturb bats or destroy a bat roost, as bats are a protected species you will need a European Protected Species Licence. A mitigation licence can be obtained from Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Timing your bat survey

It’s important to note that while Preliminary Roost Assessments can be carried out year round, bat emergence and re-entry surveys can only be carried out in the summer months between May and September.

How to arrange bat surveys in Worcestershire

Firstly, identify an ecological consultancy with extensive experience in completing bat surveys for the relevant West Midlands local planning authority. The consultancy should employ fully licensed ecologists who work to best practice guidelines, giving you confidence that you will receive expert advice to help you progress your application through the local council’s planning process.

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