Any property development scheme in Cornwall is likely to need a bat survey report as part of the planning application.
If there is evidence of bats on your site, putting in place an appropriate mitigation strategy may enable your scheme to satisfy the local planning authority and proceed through the planning process.
Bats and the law
Bats are one of the most highly protected of the many European protected species. Bat populations are declining, and it is a criminal offence to disturb bats without permission. Specific legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects bats, and Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 gives full protection for all 17 European species of bat breeding in the UK, safeguarding them from harm or disturbance or the destruction of bat roosts. While bats are the most common European protected species, other protected species include water voles, great crested newts and barn owls.
Cornwall’s development strategy
Policies in the Cornwall Local Plan 2010-2030 stress the need for growth to provide investment in the county, along with new jobs, housing and infrastructure, which must be created alongside protecting and enhancing the environment. The aim is for sustainable development to create a balance of jobs, services and houses built to a high-quality design to reflect the character of Cornwall. Other priorities are to maximise the use of previously developed land, sustain local businesses and traditional fishing and farming industries and enhance the county’s cultural, tourism and retail offer.
Cornwall covers an area of 3,559 square kilometres, which includes environmentally sensitive areas, coastal and remote areas and historic market towns. One of its main challenges is that very affluent areas contrast with some of the most disadvantaged areas in the UK, according to the Local Plan: the combination of high house prices, low incomes and large numbers of second home and holiday let properties means that many areas struggle to meet their communities’ housing needs.
Bat species in Cornwall
Cornwall has 12 resident breeding bat species out of the 17 in the UK, according to the Cornwall Bat Group, which is affiliated to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Cornwall retains many old mine buildings which provide ideal conditions for bats, and its traditional hedges, pastureland, moors, heaths and riverside woodland all offer suitable bat habitats.
Bat species found here include the lesser horseshoe bat, (Rhinolophus hipposideros), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus), Natter’s bat (Myotis nattereri), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctule). Cornwall and Devon are a stronghold for the rare greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), which seeks out abandoned mines and engine houses where they make maternity roosts.
The Cornwall Bat Group
Dedicated to studying and conserving the county’s bats, the Cornwall Bat Group works in partnership with the Bat Conservation Trust. Many bats in Cornwall are found roosting in underground mine workings, including the nationally rare horseshoe bats, and the group monitors such sites via bat emergence surveys.
A bat survey will be required if there’s a likelihood that bats are present on your development site. The requirement for a bat survey may have been triggered by an earlier ecological survey such as a preliminary ecological appraisal or an ecological impact assessment. A bat survey can only be conducted by qualified ecological consultants.
The initial survey: a preliminary roost assessment
A preliminary roost assessment is the first step in the bat survey process and is designed to give a better understanding of development sites seeking planning approval. A bat ecologist will look for signs of bat activity by investigating buildings and trees, searching for suitable habitats that would support roosting bats. A bat surveyor will search for bat roosts, feeding remains, bat droppings and dead bat carcasses. If the assessment finds no evidence of the presence of bats, the report should satisfy the planning authority. However, if the presence of bats cannot be ruled out, further surveys will be needed: the second-stage bat activity survey is known as a bat emergence and re-entry survey.
Bat emergence surveys
Bat emergence surveys are also known as bat activity surveys or dusk entry and dawn re-entry surveys. They involve ecological consultants making several visits to the proposed development site at different times of the day to make an internal and external inspection and look for evidence of bat activity. They will monitor potential entry and exit locations for bats on buildings and use specialist equipment including bat detectors which record bat calls, enabling them to identify different bat species.
If bats are discovered, the survey report will provide bat mitigation measures such as installing bat boxes: these could allow development work to proceed without disturbing bats if they meet conditions set by the local planning authority.
It’s important to arrange bat emergence surveys in good time to suit your development plans as they can only be carried out during the bat season which runs from May to September.
A European Protected Species (EPS) Licence
Preliminary roost assessments and bat emergence surveys will allow you to obtain planning permission. However, a European Protected Species (EPS) Licence may be needed to move bats or destroy a bat roost. A bat mitigation class licence must be obtained from the statutory nature conservation organisation Natural England.
Find a bat survey firm in Cornwall
If you need a bat survey, the first step is to identify an ecological consultancy that employs qualified ecologists with experience in carrying out bat surveys covering Cornwall.
Cornwall environmental consultants undertake a wide range of survey work and can also advise on any further protected species surveys you might need, such as a nesting bird survey, barn owl surveys or breeding bird work. They will also be able to assist with applications for European Protected Species (EPS) Licences.