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Bat surveys


If you are submitting a planning application that may affect bats, or if you have had to withdraw an application because of a lack of (or inadequate) survey, we can help get your project back on track. You may have questions about bats and planning such as:

  • Why do I need a bat survey?
  • What does a bat survey involve?
  • Will I still be able to go ahead with my development if I have bats?

Some brief answers are given below but for more detail, or if you have any other questions, please get in touch with us today.

Why do I need a bat survey?

The simple answer is to support your planning application! Many bats rely on buildings for roosts and some species have declined by over 90% in recent times. Consequently, the importance of bats is reflected in the level of protection that they are afforded.

All species of bat are fully protected under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the EU Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Combined, this legislation makes it illegal to:

  • intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or capture a bat;
  • damage or destroy habitat which a bat uses for shelter or protection; or
  • deliberately disturb a bat when it is occupying a place it uses for shelter and protection.

A bat roost is defined as being any structure or place that is used for shelter or protection, and since it may be in use only occasionally or at specific times of year, a roost retains such designation whether bats are present or not.

Circumstances where bat surveys are required, e.g. works affecting buildings and their roofs, should be set out in the 1APP Biodiversity Checklist for your local authority. Not all local authorities in the UK have made this form as explicit as it should be - causing much frustration to applicants who submit applications in good faith, only to find them rejected on grounds of insufficient information.

The Checklist asks whether the proposals will affect existing buildings or structures with any of the following features (this includes extensions and modifications as well as demolition):

  • Clay-tiled pitched roofs
  • Loft spaces
  • Hanging tiles
  • Wooden cladding
  • Open soffits
  • Underground structures such as cellars, air raid shelters, ice-houses, tunnels
  • Bridge structures, aqueducts or viaducts
  • Dense climbing plants
  • Large agricultural buildings, particularly, but not exclusively, those of a traditional construction
  • All other buildings in a derelict or decayed state.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then a bat survey is required before your application can even be registered.

What does a bat survey involve?

For a bat survey report to be accepted by a local authority, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that sufficient survey effort has been carried out. As a general rule this would include a daytime internal and external survey of the site and, depending on the bat potential of the building, at least two activity surveys conducted with sufficiently qualified ecologists and appropriate equipment.

Local authorities expect bat survey reports to include enough detail to enable them to feel confident in the findings of the survey and use the report recommendations to allow planning permission to be granted. We can advise on the appropriate level of detail for your scheme.

Local authorities generally assess bat surveys against Bat Surveys – Good Practice Guidelines, 2nd ed. (Bat Conservation Trust 2012), which is available to download from the BCT website for free.

Will I still be able to go ahead with my development if I have bats?

Thanks to the skilled and innovative ecologists at Hampshire Ecological Services the answer is almost certainly yes! Sometimes developments will have an unavoidable impact on bats and, in such cases, we can design mitigation to offset negative impacts allowing your development to proceed. This usually includes simple measures such as installing bat boxes or discrete integrated roof roost units in the new build.