Bat Protection in the UK
The requirement to undertaken bat surveys is because bats are protected by a number of pieces of legislation, both domestic and international. This is the result of the decline in bat populations over the last century.
In summary, it is a criminal offence to:
- Disturb (Intentionally or recklessly) a bat or groups of bats in their roost
- Damage or destroy a bat roosting place, even if there are no bats present at the time
- Obstruct access to a bat roost
- Deliberately capture, kill or injure bats
Bat populations have been impacted by fragmentation and habitat loss, roost loss, and reduction in available food sources. Bats are still threatened by loss of roosts from development works, severance of commuting routes, loss of foraging habitats, and other impacts such as lighting, road networks and disease (such as white-nose syndrome).
Legal Details for a Bat Survey
- In England, all bat species are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended). This means that bats are protected from intentional or reckless disturbance, intentional or reckless obstruction of access (to any place of shelter or protection), and/or the selling, offering or exposing for sale, possession, or transporting for purpose of sale.
- All species of bat are fully protected under Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. It is illegal to injure, kill, capture or disturb bats, and to damage, destroy or obstruct trees, buildings or other places used for roosting – even if bats are not present.
- Furthermore, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC) lists the all species of bat as species of principal importance under Section 41. Section 40 requires every public body in the exercising of its functions (in relation Section 41 species) to ‘have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity’.
Presence of Bats
The presence of bats is a material consideration in the planning process. As such surveys for bats, including both roost surveys and activity surveys, are often required to support planning applications.
Works that may affect bats can include;
- Demolition of buildings
- Conversion of roof voids /outbuildings/garage units
- Re-roofing works/repair works to roof structures
- Repair works to chimneys/windows/brickwork
- Renovation of buildings
- Barn conversion/conversion of agricultural buildings
- Alterations of lighting schemes
- Timber treatment/pest control
- Removal of mature trees/veteran trees
- Types of tree surgery
- Removal of tree lines/hedgerows/disruption of commuting habitat
- Removal of key foraging habitats
The place that bats live is called a roost. Bats can use a variety of features for roosting, including trees, buildings, bridges, caves and mines. Bats will move between roosts throughout the year to support their life cycle requirements, including hibernation and breeding roosts (maternity roosts).
There are different roost types, including maternity roosts where bats give birth and raise their young, hibernation roosts, transitional roosts where bats congregate in the spring and autumn. In addition, there are also feeding perches, night and day roosts. Roosts vary in their occupation over the course of the year and will also vary in the number of individuals present. The use of different roosts is dependent on climatic conditions and well as social requirements.
Within buildings, different bats will use different parts or features within the building to support their roosts. There are crevice dwelling bats, such as the species of pipistrelles bats, but also species such as Brandt’s and whiskered. These species tend to exploit features such as hanging tiles and weatherboarding but can also be found in squeeze spaces within voids. There are species which are often present within the roof void of buildings and can be often be seen located in the roof on timbers beams, such as serotine and other bats species which fly within the void (as such are often associated with large open uncluttered voids) such as brown long-eared bats. The horseshoe bats require flight access into the roost (such as dormer style openings) and need flight space within the roost. Due to the differing requirements for the differing bat species found within the UK mitigation measures must be developed to suit their preferred methods of roosting.
All roosts, whether bats are present at the time of the roost discovery, are protected by law.
Types of Bat Surveys
The Ecology Partnership has licensed bat surveyors who are able to undertake survey work, including entering into buildings with a known bat roost. Our surveys are carried out in accordance with the Bat Conservation Trust’s Good Practice Guidelines (2016).
The Ecology Partnership undertakes the following bat surveys:
- Day-time bat surveys; includes an initial habitat assessment (potential of the site to support roosting, commuting and foraging bats), and an inspection of all potential bat roosting structures, such as trees and buildings. This survey can be undertaken at any time of year and would identify the suitability of structures or habitats for bats. This survey would also identify any direct evidence of bats such as roosting bats, bat droppings or other evidence such as feeding remains and staining around well used roosting features. Based upon this initial assessment, it may be that further surveys are recommended. This would be dependent on the scope of development works and the potential for bats to be impacted.
- Dusk surveys; measure the species and number of bats leaving potential roosting sites. These can be conducted on buildings or trees, where potential roosting features or evidence of bats has been found. These surveys are usually undertaken in conjunction with dawn surveys. These surveys should be conducted between May – September, with optimal surveys being undertaken in May-August. The surveys are weather dependent, with high winds, cold weather and rain, being problematic for bat surveys and bat surveyors.
- Dawn surveys; assess the species and number of bats swarming or returning to potential roosting structures. These are used in conjunction with dusk surveys. Both surveys are used to identify the species present and the type of roost (maternity, day roost, feeding station etc).
- Bat activity surveys or Transect surveys; evaluate the commuting and foraging activities of bats and the number of species present within the survey area. These surveys are often undertaken where development may impact upon foraging habitat, such as woodland habitats, and commuting routes (such as the loss of sections of hedgerows or tree lines). Large scale development projects must consider impacts on how bats use landscape features and move between their roosting sites and their foraging habitats. Such features can be integrated into the master plan and be incorporated into the green infrastructure design.
- Remote sound recording surveys; are used to evaluate the use of defined areas for their importance to bats, identification of key foraging and commuting networks, species identification and analysis and species abundance. This type of work is often used in conjunction with the transect surveys. Remote recording surveys can involve large data sets which provide a more detailed assessment of the species present within the survey area.
- Tree surveys; includes the identification of potential bat roosting features on trees from ground level and potential use of such features within ecological networks. Climbing is also undertaken to provide a more detailed assessment of the potential roosting feature through climbing and use of endoscope and torches. Tree climbing surveys are undertaken by a licensed bat worker.
- Hibernation surveys; can be undertaken between November to March (inclusive). These surveys include a detailed inspection of the building/features present during the winter to look for and identify hibernating bats. Hibernating bats usually crawl into crevices and can tuck themselves away and therefore can be difficult to find. Horseshoe bats, however, usually hang freely from the walls and ceilings of buildings, making these species easier to find. The hibernation survey involves a building/feature being systematically inspection with all potential roosting sites being surveyed using torches and endoscopes. Bat detectors (remote recording devices) are also deployed over the winter months to record bats when they periodically wake to drink and feed during warm weather. These recordings can further identify species which may be present roosting within features.
Bats are protected under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and bat roosts receive strict protection under these regulations, where the damage or destruction of a bat roost is considered an absolute offence. The penalties include fines and imprisonment. As such, a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) is required in order to undertake work which may impact upon breeding sites/resting sites of all species of bats.
It is the responsibility of the developer/landowner to have the probability of their activities impacting European Protected Species (EPS) assessed. If bat species are likely to be affected by proposed works a licence must be sought from Natural England to give exception to the law. The Natural England license ensures that works undertaken are done so in a legal manner.
There are two types of bat licence:
- Natural England European Protected Species Licence (or EPSL)
- Low Impact Licence / Natural England Bat Low Impact Class Licence (or BLICL)
Surveys will identify which bat licence you would require to undertake proposed works.
EPSL Bat Licence
The Ecology Partnership has extensive experience in producing European Protected Species Licences (EPSL). Such licences are required if bats are present and will be affected by the proposed development. EPSL’s are compiled using the data gathered by the dusk and dawn bat surveys, including remote recording surveys and DNA analysis. The data is then assessed and the nature of the roost and the species present is confirmed. Such licenses cover maternity roosts, hibernation roosts, or roosts with a number of differing bat species and roosts which do not fall within the Low Impact licence scheme.
Mitigation for the species and the roost type is then developed to ensure that roosting opportunities are maintained, created or enhanced to ensure that the favourable conservation status of bats is not impacted by the development. This could include the installation of bat boxes, bat tubes and boxes (set within a building including flush with the walls), the segregation of a loft for bat use, the recreation of a loft space, soffit roosts, external roosting provision through the use of tiles and weatherboarding or even a stand-alone ‘bat house’.
The Ecology Partnership has worked with a range of different species and projects, from large scale urban extension developments, developing robust green infrastructural, to the creation of new bespoke bat houses for lesser horseshoe bats and numerous species and situations in between.
Low Impact Bat Class Licence
The Low Impact Bat licence is a Natural England initiative developed to aid small scale works on buildings which support bat roosts of the more common species, where the roosts identified are considered to be of low conservation significance. These roosts tend to be day roosts, night roosts, feeding perches and transitional roosts where typically one or two individuals would be present. The licence does not cover maternity or hibernation roosts, even of the most common species. A full EPSM licence would be required (see link above)
The Low impact licence has been introduced to enable a more proportionate approach to licensing to be taken in certain situations. As such the Low impact licence scheme is designed to reduce the levels of paperwork, scrutiny of the three legal tests (under the Habitats Regulations 2017) that need to be met prior to a licence being granted, and the speed with which a licence decision is made.
There a seven common species covered within the remit of the licence:
- common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
- soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)
- brown long-eared (Plecotus auritus)
- Brandt’s (Myotis brandtii)
- Daubenton’s (Myotis daubentonii)
- Natterer’s (Myotis nattereri)
- Whiskered (Myotis mystacinus)
The survey requirements are the same as the full bat licence, with a minimum of three surveys (dusk/emergence surveys and dawn/re-entry surveys in any combination) considered as standard. These surveys should take place during May – September, with optimal times being May-August. Often DNA is used to support the survey, especially in the case of brown long-eared bat identification, where identification between species can be difficult without capture.
The low impact licence takes between 10 – 15 working days to secure, once planning is obtained and/or conditions and reserved matters relating to wildlife have been discharged.
The Ecology Partnership has undertaken numerous low impact bat licences, with Alexia Tamblyn being a ‘registered consultant’ (RC) under the scheme. The most common species worked with under this scheme include common and soprano pipistrelles and brown long-eared bats.
The RC must be on site to monitor works, usually, an assistant will be present to assist with the licensable works. Licensable works are works affecting the roosting structures and are likely to involve the removal of roof tiles, hanging tiles and weatherboarding, carefully, under ecological supervision.
A range of bat boxes, or alternative roosting sites, must be provided prior to works, to allow any bats captured, to be safely rehomed.
Bat Survey Season
Visit our Survey Calendar for suitable times for your survey to be conducted.
To discuss a bat survey or the production of a bat mitigation strategy, please email us or call us on 01372 364 133 or use our enquiry form below.
For further information on bat surveys click here.
For more protected species survey services click here.