How to Apply for a Bat Licence?
If you require planning permission to make alterations to your home or property, it is possible that the local planning authority may require you to undertake bat surveys on your property before being able to grant planning permission. This is a statutory obligation placed upon local authorities.
Once the preliminary bat surveys have been undertaken, often no evidence of bats is found and usually the developer or homeowner will not need to apply for a Habitats Regulations licence (also known as a European Protected Species Licence or EPSL). However, if bats are confirmed to be using the building as a roost, it is likely that a Habitats Regulations licence will be required before works can start. This article aims to summarise the key elements of the licencing process and to act as a guide for the unfamiliar developer.
Elements of a Habitats Regulations Licence Application
In Wales, Habitats Regulations licences are issued by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). In England licences are issued by Natural England (NE). Licences are issued under the Habitats Regulations to allow developers to work within the law. The licence application and planning consent are dealt with by separate institutions (NRW/NE and the local planning authority). The licence application can only be made once planning consent has been granted (if required). It can take 30 working days to process the licence and issue it to you (the developer). Where planning consent is required, the following elements make up the licence application:
- A completed and signed licence application form;
- A copy of the planning consent or listed building consent (if applicable) and supplementary planning reports (for example, planning officer delegated reports or committee meeting minutes);
- A completed and signed Local Authority Planning Consultation form;
- A completed method statement which sets out the timetable for the development and details the provision for new or continued roosting opportunities for bats (usually referred to as mitigation);
- Any bat survey reports associated with the development; and
- Confirmation that any relevant associated planning conditions have been discharged by the Local Authority.
- A completed and signed bat mitigation licence application form;
- A completed method statement setting out the process and timetable of the development and details of the provision for new or continued roosting opportunities for bats;
- A completed work schedule for a bat mitigation licence;
- A reasoned statement to show that the proposed activity fits the criteria and that there is no satisfactory alternative; and
- The bat survey report/s.
Who Can Apply for a Habitats Regulations Licence?
While in theory it is possible for anyone to apply for a licence (indeed, the licence is issued to the developer, not the consultant or ecologist), this is often a daunting and unachievable prospect for those without a background in ecology or protected species licencing. The applicant must demonstrate that:
- Suitable survey effort has been undertaken by appropriately qualified persons and that sufficiently robust survey data has been acquired;
- The detailed method statement will suitably avoid injuring or killing bats, or cause them disturbance;
- The mitigation strategy must be demonstrably proportionate to the number of bats and diversity of species affected, as well as being appropriate for the level of disturbance or damage that will be caused to the bat roost as a result of the development; and
- Furthermore, a final report must be submitted to NRW detailing the works that have been undertaken, justifying any alterations to the original method statement and mitigation strategy and confirming that works have been completed to an appropriate standard.
In reality, achieving these outcomes is going to be very difficult for a non-specialist without a background in bat ecology. This is why specialist ecological consultants are usually contracted to carry out this work.
What if I Don’t Want to Apply for a Licence?
Carrying out a licensable activity without a licence or failing to comply with conditions set out in a licence which has been granted are criminal acts. Penalties for non-compliance are therefore potentially severe, with prison time and unlimited fines real possibilities. There are numerous examples of developers who ignored professional ecological advice and wound up paying the price.
Being prepared at the outset of your project is the key to avoiding frustration and delay. Most obstacles encountered by developers result from a lack of planning and a lack of understanding of the procedures that need to be followed to ensure their project runs smoothly.
What Should I Do Now?
Get prepared! In order to avoid unnecessary delay, it is important to understand the time constraints involved. A scoping survey or preliminary roost inspection can be undertaken at any time of year in order to assess the potential of a building or structure being used by bats. However, if the survey determines that the structure has potential to be used by bats, dusk emergence and/or dawn re-entry surveys will be required. These can only be undertaken from late April to September. Add to this the time taken to apply for and receive a licence, then it becomes clear that the best approach is to consider bats (and other protected species) at the outset of any project. Our survey calendar explains the timing constraints associated with protected species surveys.
If you think that bats or other protected species could be a concern on a potential development then don’t wait until applying for full planning permission to find out. Approaching your local planning authority and seeking pre-application advice can help you to understand planning policies and other material considerations associated with a proposed development. This can be done at any time and will identify any information required to accompany a formal planning application. This will reduce the likelihood of delays when submitting a full planning application.
How Acer Ecology Can Help You?
We can assist you by undertaking a preliminary roost assessment survey. This will assess the potential for bats to be present on your site. Expert advice will be provided on the options and solutions available. If a European Protected Species licence is required we can complete and submit your licence application. Upon approval of the licence we can provide continuing assistance to help you ensure that the terms of the licence are adhered to.