When it comes to development and ecology, bats routinely require consideration. All bat species and their roosts are currently protected by law; legislation makes it an offence to destroy, damage or block access to a bat roost, or to deliberately or recklessly disturb, injure or kill any bat. The roost is protected whether bats are present or not.
There are eighteen species of bat resident in the UK, each with their own specific habitat requirements. Bats can use a wide range of features for roosting purposes including loft spaces, cavity walls, loose tiles, mortise joints and cracks/gaps in a variety of built structures. They can also be found in trees with holes, splits, cracks, cavities, ivy and loose bark. Bats are generally active at night and utilise a wide range of habitats for foraging and commuting between roost sites, hibernation sites and foraging habitats. Linear features such as hedgerows, woodland edges and even fences can be important for navigation between roosting and foraging habitats.
Bats have seen significant declines over the last century and are still vulnerable to threats such as habitat fragmentation and habitat loss.
Bats and development
When an ecology survey is undertaken in relation to a development, the potential of a site to support bats is assessed. This may result in further surveys being required to ascertain whether the site is being used by bats for roosting purposes, and/or is an important foraging/commuting/dispersal resource for bats.
If a site is found to support roosting bats and it is deemed probable that the development proposals would contravene legislation, a license is required in order for works to legally proceed. The license essentially permits activities which would ordinarily be unlawful.
In order to obtain a license a suitably qualified ecologist prepares an application (once planning permission has been granted). An application for a full European Protected Species Mitigation Licence (EPSML) includes preparation of an application form, method statement and works schedule — a reasoned statement may also be required. In England, the licensing body is Natural England who make a charge for processing some types of license.
A Bat Low Impact Class Licence is held by certain qualified and approved ecologists. It allows works to proceed where the roost is being used by common species of bat and where it is considered to be of ‘low conservation significance’. This type of license cannot be applied to maternity roosts, where there are more than three roosts present, or if there are rare bat species within a site. As the registered consultant holds the licence, it is a more streamlined process in terms of obtaining approval for works to proceed.
A number of our ecologists at The Ecology Co-op hold a low impact class licence for bats, and are experienced in guiding development through the planning process with regards to considerations surrounding bat presence, mitigation and licensing.
If you are proposing to develop a site/undertake work to an existing development, we’re on hand to help, so please get in touch to discuss your project further.