Having a diverse range of landscapes including fens, sandy beaches, cliffs, marshes and hills, Lincolnshire is a haven for many wildlife species. The second largest county in England, it comprises four distinct areas, The Wolds, The Marshes, The Fens and the Lincoln Edge.
Lincolnshire is home to many bat species and as they are a protected species, bat surveys will usually be required alongside planning applications for developments on sites where there is a likelihood of bats or suitable habitat for bat roosts.
Lincolnshire’s development plan
Balancing the need for development while conserving the character of this East Midlands region of England is a challenge for planners across the county. Key features include its 50-mile coastline to its eastern edge, stretching from The Humber to The Wash in the south, and the Lincolnshire Wolds which are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The vision is to concentrate growth in sustainable settlements, consider flood risk and protect high-quality agricultural land.
Priorities in the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan are for well-designed new homes built in the right location, protecting existing employment sites, identifying more employment land, and enhancing towns and city centres. The North Lincolnshire Local Development Framework aims to see high-quality homes built, while the North East Lincolnshire Local Plan 2013-2032 prioritises new industries associated with the growth in offshore wind and developments at the Port of Grimsby.
The need for housing, jobs, and infrastructure while protecting historic buildings, wildlife, and open countryside is at the heart of the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan 2011-2036. For major residential development within 10km of The Wash and North Norfolk Coast European Marine Site, a Habitats Regulations Assessment will be needed.
Bat species in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire hosts 11 of the 18 British resident breeding bats. Bat species include the Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Natter’s bat (Myotis nattereri), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctule) and the Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii).
Protection for bats and bat roosts
Due to declining bat populations, bats are one of the most highly protected of the many European protected species and disturbing bats without permission is a criminal offence. Bats are protected by legislation in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 gives protection to the 17 European species of bat that breed in the UK. While bats are the most common European protected species, other protected species include great crested newts, badgers and barn owls.
The Lincolnshire Bat Group
Operating under the umbrella of the Bat Conservation Trust, the Lincolnshire Bat Group aims to promote bat conservation and carries out bat surveys and monitors bat roosts.
If there is evidence of the presence of bats on a proposed development site, a local planning authority is likely to require a bat survey before granting consent. Evidence of bats includes bat droppings, bat carcasses or prey remains, and potential roosting sites. A previous ecological survey such as a preliminary ecological appraisal or an ecological impact assessment may have triggered the need for a bat survey. The first stage in the bat survey process is to arrange for a preliminary roost assessment.
Stage 1 bat surveys: the preliminary roost assessment
Preliminary roost bat surveys involve an ecologist fully investigating a proposed development site by making an internal and external inspection of buildings and trees. They will look for suitable bat habitats, roosting bats, feeding remains, bat droppings, and dead bats. If there is no evidence of bats, a planning application should be able to proceed: if bat activity can’t be ruled out, further bat surveys will be needed starting with the bat emergence and re-entry survey.
Stage 2 bat surveys: bat emergence and re-entry surveys
Also known as bat emergence surveys, bat activity surveys, and dusk entry and dawn re-entry surveys, this bat survey involves ecological consultants making site inspections at different times. Bat surveyors will make internal and external inspections, looking for evidence of bat activity. The bat survey involves the use of specialist equipment such as bat detectors that record bat calls, enabling ecologists to identify bat species and calculate population numbers.
If bats are discovered, bat mitigation measures will form part of the bat survey report: simple solutions such as installing bat boxes might suffice, or the scheme might need to be altered to enable it to proceed without disturbing bats. Dusk and dawn re-entry surveys can only be carried out at a certain time of year, between May and September.
While preliminary roost assessments and emergence bat surveys will allow the granting of planning permission, a European Protected Species Licence may be needed to move bats or destroy a bat roost. Bat mitigation class licences are issued by the statutory nature conservation organisation Natural England.
Lincolnshire bat surveys
If you need bat surveys in Lincolnshire, it’s important to find a consultancy that employs qualified ecologists. Ensure they have experience conducting bat surveys for the local planning authority you are dealing with.
Environmental consultants can also advise on any further surveys you might need relating to protected species such as great crested newt surveys or hibernation surveys. Qualified consultants can also help with applications to Natural England for European Protected Species Licences.