Bat Surveys and Development

Pipistrelle bat

Pipistrelle bat

If you are a home-owner looking to extend or modify part of your home or a developer wishing to convert or demolish buildings then now is the time to think about bat surveys.

To assist with the understanding of what’s involved we have provided some guidance on bat surveys. We hope it is of use but do call us if you want to discuss a specific project.

Bat Surveys

The presence of bats should not be thought of with a sense of fore-boding and exasperation. Although they are protected species employing the services of a professional consultancy will make the process relatively straight-forward and cost effective.

At Practecology we have a highly experienced team of ecologists who can assist with your bat surveys, including internal building inspections, dusk and dawn surveys, tree assessments, mitigation design, roost exclusion and licence applications.

We use both frequency division and pre-programmable bat detectors as the project requires and surveys are carried according to Bat Conservation Trust guidelines. We are able to design a mitigation plan which is appropriate for the scale of your development and submit a licence application to Scottish Natural Heritage on your behalf.

1. I think I have bats in my property - this is a real problem!

Firstly, it is important to determine if the bats are actually in your property. Seeing bats flying round your property at night does not mean that they live in it - they could have flown there from many kilometres away. If you are intending to carry out work to the fabric of the building then it will be necessary to get a survey done to determine whether there really is something to worry about. 

2. I don’t have bats - I’ve never seen one!

This is a frequent statement made by property owners. Yes, it may be that they have never seen a bat around their property but bats only usually emerge from their roost when it is dark, returning back to it just before dawn. Both times coincide when most of us are indoors watching the television or asleep. Coupled to the fact that bats are small and they don’t make much noise means that they often go undetected.

If you are proposing to develop your property, no matter how sure you are that there are no bats, it is highly recommended that you contact an ecologist to discuss the need for any surveys. If you don’t and bats are present then this will incur delays and lead to higher than necessary costs. There may also be a case to answer to the Police if a bat roost is damaged or destroyed.

It will also be worth bearing in mind that most planning authorities will require a bat survey to be completed before they can make a decision to grant a planning application. 

3. Who can I get advice from?

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) have a fantastic advisory helpline (www.bct.org.uk) and a comprehensive website which will likely have all the answers you need. There is specific guidance here for home-owners which will be invaluable. While the advice may not be tailored specifically to your proposed development it may help.

If you want to discuss specific details then do not hesitate to contact Practecology and we will be glad to help. 

4. What type of survey do I need?

If you need to commission the services of an ecological consultant make sure you understand how they will carry out the surveys. Engage with an ecologist quickly as some bat surveys can only be carried out at specific times of year. Make sure the ecologist has experience in carrying out bat surveys to inform licence applications. You do not want to spend money on surveys only for the results to be insufficient to satisfy your planning application!

Generally there are two parts to surveys: an initial day time assessment and a dusk and/or dawn survey.

An initial assessment will require the ecologist to inspect the outside of the building and any internal spaces where bats may exist - such as attics and cellars. This inspection will identify likely points of bat entry and potential roosts. This information will be used to plan the dusk and dawn surveys.  

Dusk and dawn surveys are used to determine whether bats are roosting in the property. This is done by recording bats using sound equipment when they are active and either leaving or returning to their roosts. Such surveys, particularly those carried out at dawn, also enable ecologists to count bats as they return to the roost.

5. Do I need someone with a bat licence to do surveys?

No. However you will need an ecologist who is experienced in bat surveys and who has the right equipment to carry them out. Make sure you ask them to provide recommendations in their report as to how they will mitigate for bats should they be present. 

6. How much will it cost?

This will largely depend on the size of your development, the likelihood of bats being present and the number of surveys and surveyors needed to confirm bat presence or absence.  

It is better to agree an initial fee for a day time assessment and then get a breakdown of costs for each survey and a report. That way you will know what you are paying for and query why you may need so many surveyors. However, survey effort must be appropriate for the size of your development and the likelihood of bats being present. 

7. Can I participate?

Yes, but this is unlikely to save you any money as bat surveyors have specific expertise and equipment for detecting bats. Hopefully, however, it will allow you to see some bats. 

8. Survey complete - now what?

Once the survey has been completed and you have the consultants report you can submit this to the planning authority. If you have no bats then you can proceed with your development once all planning and/or demolition warrants are in place.  

If you do have bats then you will have to apply for a licence from the Statutory Wildlife Regulator (Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in Scotland), to disturb or damage a bat roost. Generally this is achieved by submitting an application form along with the consultants report. The consultant’s report should have provided a number of recommendations to mitigate for the presence of bats. Make sure you ask the ecologist to explain their recommendations so you know what they entail as some will cost money.

Recommendations will be dependent on the species and numbers of bat, the number of roosts identified and the type of each of these roosts. The licensing approval process can be between 2 to 4 weeks.

9. I have my licence - now what?

Once you have received your licence then you will need to undertake the recommendations made within the ecology report submitted as part of your application. You will also likely need the services of an ecologist again. Depending on what you need to do you may need the services of a bat licensed ecologist. This will allow them to access the bat roost in your property and handle bats following a period of roost exclusion. 

10. What next?

Once all bats have been removed from the property and mitigation, such as the hanging of bat boxes, has been put in place then you are able to continue with your work. Make sure you carry out all the mitigation detailed in your report as it will likely be a Planning Condition.

Once all the work has been completed a short document referred to as a licence return will need to be submitted to the Statutory Wildlife Regulator. Normally your ecologist will submit this on your behalf. 

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