Dorset bat surveys

Whenever bats are likely to impact your land or property development, a bat survey will be needed to help decide on the next steps to take.

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Dorset bat surveys

The wide range of rural landscapes, small towns, and varied architecture in Dorset provides plenty of opportunities for bats to find spaces to roost and shelter in. Bats can be found in agricultural buildings, lofts, and roofs in older houses, as well as caves, trees, and hedgerows. A bat survey will likely be needed as part of your planning application if you are considering a property development in Dorset.

Finding bats present on your site does not mean that your development proposals cannot proceed through the planning system and achieve planning permission. A bat survey carried out by experienced ecologists can provide a bat mitigation strategy that results in a successful planning application.

Caves at Portland, on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, offer suitable bat habitat.

Bats and the law

Given declining bat populations, they are one of the most highly protected of the many European protected species. Disturbing bats without permission is a criminal offence and they are protected by legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 protects all 17 European species of bat breeding in the UK. The Bat Conservation Trust works with the police to protect bats. While bats are the most common European protected species, other protected species include water voles, great crested newts, and barn owls.

Dorset and development

Balancing the need for development while conserving the unique character of Dorset in southwest England is a challenge for planners across the county. The draft new Dorset Council Local Plan which will extend to 2038 is expected to be adopted in May 2026: until then local plans for five areas of Dorset are in place.

Key issues include the pressure for development on greenfield sites, the need for affordable housing, an ageing population and young people moving away to find employment. Dorset County Council aims to see high-quality development near to existing facilities that enhance the character of each area while protecting the natural environment and contributing towards climate change mitigation.

Dorset has many natural and built heritage features, including areas of outstanding natural beauty; a large section of the coastline is designated as a Heritage Coast and World Heritage Site and there are European protected sites in the southeast Dorset heathlands. There are over 90 conservation areas and over 7,000 listed buildings of architectural or historic interest.

Bat species in Dorset

17 of the 18 species of bat present in the UK breed here and all 17 breeding species are found in Dorset. Species include the long grey-eared bat (Plecotus austriacus), Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii), Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii), Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus), 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), Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctule) and the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum).

Rarer bat species found in Dorset include Nathusius’ pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus nathusii), and greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis).

The Dorset Bat Group

Part of Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Dorset Bat Group carries out bat surveys, roost visits, and records bat numbers; it’s part of Dorset Wildlife Trust and a Bat Conservation Trust partner group. Dorset Mammal Group also looks after the county’s bats.

The bat survey process

A bat survey will be needed if there’s a likelihood of the presence of bats on your proposed development site. A previous ecological survey such as a preliminary ecological appraisal or an ecological impact assessment indicating the possibility of bats may have triggered the requirement for a bat survey.

A preliminary roost assessment

The first stage in the process, the preliminary roost assessment is designed to fully investigate a proposed development site. This bat survey involves ecologists walking the site to get an overall picture. They will make an internal and external inspection of buildings and trees, searching for suitable bat habitats, and evidence of bat activity such as bat roosts, feeding remains, bat droppings, and dead bats. If the surveyor finds no evidence of bats, a planning application should be able to proceed through the local authority’s system. If the possibility of bat activity can’t be ruled out, further surveys will be called for. The next stage bat survey is the bat emergence and re-entry survey.

Bat emergence and re-entry surveys

Bat emergence surveys are also known as bat activity surveys or dusk entry and dawn re-entry surveys. This bat survey involves ecological consultants carrying out several inspections of the proposed development site at different times of the day. During internal and external inspections, bat surveyors will look for evidence of bat activity, especially around buildings with potential entry and exit gaps for bats. Their specialist equipment includes automated bat detectors that record bat activity, enabling ecologists to identify different bat species. They will also be able to assess bat population numbers.

If the survey reveals the presence of bats, the bat surveyor will include bat mitigation measures in their report. These might include simple solutions such as putting up bat boxes, or more involved measures: such mitigation strategies could allow development proposals to go ahead without disturbing bats. It’s important to note that there are seasonal constraints with bat emergence surveys: they can only be carried out during the bat season which runs from May to September, which could be relevant to your works schedule.

A European Protected Species Licence

While preliminary roost assessments and bat emergence surveys will allow planning permission to be granted, a European Protected Species Licence may need to be obtained if you want to move bats or destroy a bat roost. Bat mitigation class licences are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisation Natural England.

Do you need an ecological consultancy in Dorset?

If you need bat surveys in Dorset, it’s important to find a consultancy that employs experienced ecologists who work to good practice guidelines. A bat ecologist can explain the bat survey requirements and advise on any further protected species surveys you might need such as great crested newt surveys, nesting bird surveys, and barn owl surveys. They can also help with a bat licence application if necessary.

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