From its listed buildings to its coastal areas and green spaces, Chichester has a wealth of places that provide habitat suitable for roosting and breeding bats. The fact that all 18 species of UK bat are found in Sussex makes it likely that you will need to take bats into consideration if you’re seeking planning permission for a development scheme.
Old buildings can offer potential bat roosting opportunities, from broken hanging tiles and lifted tiles to cracked bargeboards and gaps in brickwork: a bat can access a building via a mere 20mm gap, and they also roost in trees and hedgerows.
If a bat survey reveals that bats are present on your site, your scheme may still be able to go ahead if you follow the correct guidance and carry out mitigation and compensation measures for bats.
Chichester and development
Its history and Chichester today
Chichester is the only city in West Sussex and the county town. It’s a cathedral city, renowned for its historic heritage, beaches, festivals and arts events. It has a varied historical and built environment, stretching from the lowland marsh of Chichester harbour across the coastal plain to the South Downs National Park and the Weald and includes numerous conservation areas.
Visitors are attracted to Chichester’s Grade II listed buildings, the 11th-century cathedral, medieval buildings, and its Roman walls which are one of the most intact city defences in the south of England.
Tourism is a significant employment sector and the main industries here are manufacturing and engineering, construction and civil engineering, along with finance insurance and business services. Horticulture is important due to the mild climate and soil quality: the county is the largest producer of salad crops in the country and major growers have established large-scale glasshouse sites.
Chichester Council appreciates the importance of protecting its historic buildings while recognising the need to accommodate new development. There is a high demand for housing, and the Chichester Local Plan aims to see at least 10,350 houses delivered between 2021 and 2039; a mix of all housing types is needed in the city centre and outlying larger communities. Sustainable development is important; homes built should be well-designed for future generations and adaptable to climate change.
Land is also allocated for business growth and infrastructure improvements. Alongside this is the need to protect and conserve the historic environment and areas of biodiversity and important habitats.
Bats found in West Sussex
According to the Sussex Bat Group, all 18 species of bat in the UK have been recorded in Sussex. It is home to some of Britain’s rarest bats including the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) which has been found hibernating in disused railway tunnels in West Sussex, and it’s the most south-easterly breeding population area for greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum). Bats commonly found in West Sussex include Savi’s pipistrelle (Hypsugo savii), Kuhl’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii), parti-coloured bats (Vespertilio murinus) and Geoffroy’s bats (Myotis emarginatus).
Bats and the law
As a European protected species, bats are protected by a raft of legislation and high fines can be issued for breaking the law. This includes the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 protects all 17 European bat species breeding in the UK. It is an offence to intentionally kill or deliberately capture bats, destroy a bat roost, obstruct access or harm bats in any way. Bats are also protected under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
Guidance on bats is available from organisations including the Bat Conservation Trust, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and Natural England.
The protection given to bat roosts, commuting bats and hibernating bats means that when it comes to obtaining planning permission, precise guidance must be followed to avoid disturbing bats. If bats are found on your development site before work starts, or after works are underway, you need a plan to manage them correctly and avoid committing a criminal offence.
By carrying out a survey, a qualified and licenced ecologist will be able to advise on the necessary bat mitigation strategy to protect native bats and increase the likelihood of a successful planning application.
Bat surveys: guidelines
If there is a reasonable likelihood that bats are present on a development site, or if they are discovered following a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal/Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, you will need a survey which must be carried out by a licensed ecologist.
Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)
Also known as a Phase 1 Bat Survey or a Scoping Survey, this involves a bat expert conducting an initial desk study followed by an on-site inspection of trees and buildings to investigate potential bat activity. The surveyor will look for potential bat roost sites, dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, urine stains and feeding remains, any of which would indicate the presence of bats. The bat surveyor will clarify the method statement and findings in the report and provide detailed guidance about the next steps. If bats are present, your local planning authority is likely to require further surveys which need to include satisfactory mitigation measures to allow your project to proceed. If there is no evidence of bats, your scheme should be able to go ahead.
Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS)
This is the second stage survey. While the Preliminary Roost Assessment can be carried out at any time of the year, BERS, also known as Bat Activity Surveys, can only be carried out between May and September. These bat surveys involve dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys which must take place in good weather conditions as they can be disrupted by high winds and heavy rain. During Bat Emergence Surveys, licensed ecologists conduct two or three internal and external inspections at the site to monitor potential entry and exit points for bats. They will use specialist equipment including bat detectors to assess different species from echolocation calls and can calculate bat populations.
If bats are found, the survey report will contain mitigation measures for dealing with them correctly in your planning application. Options might include installing bat boxes or relocating bats. If bats are not found, the report will satisfy the planning authority and your scheme should be able to go ahead.
While you will be able to secure planning permission via the PRA and BERS survey process, a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) may be needed to move, disturb bats, or destroy roosts. If your development proposal will affect bats and you need to make an EPSL licence application as part of your planning application, these are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisations Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.
Contact an experienced ecological consultancy
It’s important to find a firm with fully licensed ecologists who are experienced in conducting bat surveys. A professional consultant will be able to carry out a bat survey and give advice on the next steps to take to obtain planning permission. Forward planning is important as while a PRA can be carried out at any time of year, there are seasonal restrictions for BERS surveys which could disrupt your timeframes.