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Bat surveys in Wiltshire

If you have a property development scheme in Wiltshire in mind, you are likely to need a bat survey report to accompany your planning application.

If bats are present on your site, your scheme may well be able to proceed but mitigation measures might be needed to satisfy the local planning authority.

A view from the Westbury White Horse, a hill figure carved in the white chalk escarpment of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

The protection given to bats

As a European protected species, bats are highly safeguarded. Disturbing bats without permission is a criminal offence: legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 details the protection given to bats. All 17 European species of bat breeding in the UK are fully protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, preventing them from harm or disturbance or the destruction of bat roosts. Bats are the most common European protected species; other protected species include water voles, great crested newts, reptiles, otters and badgers.

Wiltshire and development  

Wiltshire is a rural county comprising several market towns and the city of Salisbury is its cultural centre. New housing is needed to cater to a growing population, alongside economic growth and infrastructure improvements and the Wiltshire Core Strategy wants to see houses built to a high-quality design while prioritising protecting the environment.

As a European protected species, bats are given much consideration in the Wiltshire Core Strategy planning obligations. For instance, the Trowbridge Bat Mitigation Strategy Supplementary Planning Document builds on advice in the `Bat Special Area of Conservation Planning Guidance for Wiltshire’ and considers the impacts of development in the Trowbridge area on the Bath and Bradford-on-Avon Bats Special Area of Conservation. It sets out an approach for mitigation to avoid significant adverse impacts on bats.

Bat species in Wiltshire

Bats roost and breed in urban and rural areas of the county, finding spaces to shelter under hanging tiles, damaged bargeboards and loose tiles as well as in trees and hedgerows.

Bat species found here include the Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), Natter’s bat (Myotis nattereri), Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctule), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus), whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus), mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis), Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii), Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis emarginatus), parti-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus) and the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum).

Bat groups in Wiltshire

The Wiltshire Bat Group monitors bat activity in the county and is the main contact for bat-related enquiries. The Wiltshire Bat Group is affiliated with the Bat Conservation Trust and its projects include monitoring greater horseshoe bat roosts in South Wiltshire.

Bat activity surveys

If it’s likely that bats are present on your development site, a bat survey will be required. The presence of bats might have been identified in earlier ecological surveys such as preliminary ecological appraisals or ecological impact assessments, triggering the need for further surveys. Only qualified ecological consultants can conduct bat surveys or protected species surveys.

Preliminary roost assessments

This is the first stage bat survey and it involves an ecological consultant investigating a site for signs of bat activity, looking for bat roosts, feeding remains, bat droppings, dead bat carcasses, and suitable habitat for supporting roosting bats. If they find no evidence of the presence of bats, the report will clarify this, and it should satisfy the planning authorities. If the preliminary roost assessment cannot rule out the presence of bats, second-stage bat activity surveys will be needed, known as bat emergence and re-entry surveys.

Bat emergence and re-entry surveys

Also known as bat activity surveys or dusk entry and dawn re-entry surveys, bat emergence and re-entry surveys involve ecologists visiting the site in question several times at different times of the day to investigate bat activity. This bat survey involves consultants monitoring bats’ potential entry and exit locations on buildings. These bat surveys can only be undertaken at certain times of the year, namely between May and September.

These ecology surveys involve bat surveyors using specialist equipment including static bat detectors which record bat calls, enabling species identification. The survey report will include bat mitigation measures such as installing bat boxes to ensure that the proposed scheme will not disturb bats. Providing that the information complies with local planning authorities’ conditions, planning consent should be obtained.

While the two bat surveys above will enable you to secure planning permission, a European Protected Species Licence may be needed to move bats or destroy roosts. If you need a bat mitigation licence as part of the planning process, they are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, and a professional ecologist will be able to help with your application.

Identify the ecological services you need

The first step is to find an ecological consultancy with experienced ecologists who are used to completing bat surveys for the relevant local planning authorities. A professional ecologist will also be able to advise you on any further surveys you might need to help secure planning consent: as well as bat activity surveys these may include surveys for great crested newts or water voles.

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