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Bat surveys in Gloucestershire

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

Gloucestershire offers a wealth of places that provide habitat suitable for roosting and breeding bats, from forests and open countryside where they can roost in trees and hedgerows, to towns and villages featuring old buildings that can offer numerous roosting opportunities. Bats can access a building via a tiny 20mm gap and often find shelter behind broken hanging tiles, lifted tiles and cracked bargeboards.

To find out if bats are present on a development site, a bat survey will be needed before any work can proceed. If the bat survey reveals evidence of bats, your scheme may still be able to go ahead if you follow the correct guidance and carry out mitigation and compensation measures for bats.

The view over Painswick in Gloucestershire and the Cotswold escarpment.

Development in Gloucestershire

Despite the county’s important natural environment, a wide range of development is happening. The Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewksbury Joint Core Strategy 2011-2031 priorities sustainable development which must be of a high standard to protect the quality and distinctiveness of communities. It acknowledges that there is a growing population, and it is committed to housing and employment needs while improving the infrastructure, roads and services. Alongside this, it wants to protect the natural and historical environment.

Wildlife and biodiversity in Gloucestershire

Located in the southwest of England, bordering Wales, Gloucestershire is home to the Cotswolds, the Severn Valley, and natural attractions such as Symonds Yat Rock and the Royal Forest of Dean, one of England’s few remaining ancient forests. These natural areas provide suitable habitat for a variety of bats.

Rare bat species in Gloucestershire

Lesser horseshoe bats are found in the Forest of Dean where they forage for insects and roost in underground sites and buildings. Greater horseshoe bats are also found in the Forest, along with Bechstein’s bats which roost in mature woodland in the summer and are also found along the Cotswold scarp. Barbastelle bats are also found in the county, roosting in mature woodland in summer and underground sites in winter.

More common bats in Gloucestershire

Species include the serotine bat, Brandt’s bat, whiskered bat, brown long-eared bat, common pipistrelle bat, Daubenton’s bat, Leisler’s bat, Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat, Natterer’s bat, Noctule bat and the soprano pipistrelle bat.

Bat and habitat protection groups

The Gloucestershire Bat Group works closely with the Bat Conservation Trust, and habitat protection group the Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records which works to conserve biodiversity in the county, carrying out active conservation and informing the public about bat species. Other bodies concerned with protecting the environment include Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, the Cotswold Water Park Trust and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

Bats and the planning system

Due to declining bat numbers in the UK, various legislation has been introduced to protect them from harm and disturbance. If roosting bats are found on a site, a bat survey will be needed to address the likely impact of the proposed development on the population. Ecological consultants will draw up a mitigation design as part of the bat survey report to ensure the safety of bats while allowing the development proposal to proceed through the planning process.

Bats are one of several European protected species that must be carefully taken into consideration with any application for planning permission on a development site: the relevant ecological surveys will need to be carried out before consent can be secured. Other European protected species include badgers, great crested newts, otters and water voles.

Bat surveys

Bat surveys are prompted by a local planning authority or following a preliminary ecological appraisal which has raised the prospect of bat activity or roosting bats on a site.

There are two main bat survey assessments, the preliminary roost assessment and the bat emergence and re-entry survey.

Preliminary roost assessment

This stage one survey or scoping bat survey involves a bat surveyor collating evidence via a desk-based study followed by a site inspection to look for signs of roosting bats. Bat survey specialists will look for bat droppings, bat carcasses, bat roosts, feeding remains, and structural features that could provide suitable roosting sites. If no evidence is found, the bat survey report will clarify that in its findings and a recommendation for planning permission can be made from the local planning authority.

If bat activity is found, the ecological consultant will work out whether the plans will disturb bats or their roost and calculate a mitigation strategy. Further surveys start with bat emergence and re-entry surveys.

Bat emergence and re-entry surveys

Also known as bat activity surveys or dusk and dawn re-entry surveys, bat emergence and re-entry surveys involve ecological consultants attending a site on several occasions at dusk and dawn between the summer months of May and September to look for bats. They will monitor potential entry and exit points on buildings and use bat detectors which pick up echolocation calls to help indicate species and population numbers. The lead ecologist will compile a bat survey report for the local planning authority detailing recommended measures to protect bats while allowing the development proposal to go ahead.

European Protected Species Licence

While the preliminary roost assessment and the bat emergence and re-entry survey will enable you to secure planning permission, a European Protected Species Licence may be needed to move, disturb bats, or destroy bat roosts. If your development proposal will affect bats and you need a bat mitigation class licence as part of your planning application, these are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Find an experienced ecological consultancy

It’s important to engage a consultancy that employs fully licensed ecologists who are experienced in completing reports to support planning applications. Make sure that they are well-versed in carrying out bat surveys for the relevant local authority. As well as producing a bat report, a professional consultant will be able to provide expert advice on the steps you need to take to obtain planning permission. It’s important to think carefully about the timing of your bat survey: while a preliminary roost assessment can be carried out at any time of year, there are seasonal restrictions for bat emergence and re-entry surveys.

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