Bat Surveys Made Simple – Information for Clients
Here at Acer we understand that protected species surveys, and the regulations behind them, can be a little confusing for our clients. With the main bat survey season coming to a close, we thought we might provide some advice and clarification on frequently asked questions.
Why might I need a bat survey?
The UK and Ireland is home to a total of 18 species of bats. Each of these species, and their roosts, are protected under European and UK legislation. This means that you are committing a criminal offence if you disturb a bat in its roost, obstruct access to a bat roost, or, damage or destroy a bat roost, even if it is not occupied at the time. Because of this, if a project or development is deemed likely to affect a bat population or roost, a bat survey and impact assessment will be required by your local planning authority. It is your responsibility as a planning applicant to organise and fund the survey.
What is the purpose of a bat survey?
A bat survey seeks to establish both the species and number of bats present on a development site, combined with the likely impact on any bats present during, or after, the development.
What is involved in a bat survey?
A bat survey typically involves two stages, the first of which is called a ‘Scoping Survey’, or ‘Daytime Survey’. Scoping surveys look for any sign that bats have, or are currently, using a development site. This takes into account the suitability of the habitat for bats, and any features at the development site that could potentially provide a roosting place. Crucially, this scoping survey can be conducted at any time of year.
As part of the scoping survey a desk search for bats records may be required in the form of a Local Records Centre data search. This helps to assess the potential of the site for use by bats.
If, during the scoping survey, a development site is found to have potential for use by roosting bats or evidence of bats is found on the site the second stage of the survey will be required.
The second stage involves ‘Activity Surveys’ which consist of emergence and re-entry surveys. These aim to see how bats are using the development site, how many bats emerge or re-enter a structure, and if so, which species they are. These surveys take place at dusk, and dawn, respectively. These surveys can only be carried out when bats are most active, before they hibernate for winter, typically between April and September. Evidence of bats and the potential of the development site are used by your ecologist to determine how many activity surveys will be required (with a maximum of three) and how often they should be spaced over the survey season.
What happens if bats are observed during the survey?
Following the completion of the survey, your ecologist will write a report stating how and when the survey(s) was carried out, what was observed, the impact of a prospective development on any resident bats and their recommendation for mitigating this impact.
If bats are found to be present at a development site, a ‘Mitigation Strategy’ will be devised, where mitigation refers to protecting bats from damaging activities, and reducing or removing the impact of a development. It is important to bear in mind that the presence of bats at a development site rarely prevents a development from proceeding. More information on bat mitigation techniques can be found here, but may be as simple as development taking place at a specific time of year.
If a development cannot sufficiently minimise its impact on bats a mitigation strategy may not be sufficient. In this instance a European Protected Species licence will need to be obtained from Natural Resources Wales, or your local licensing body, in order for works to continue. Your ecologist will submit this licence application on your behalf after planning permission has been granted.
How can Acer Ecology assist with bat surveys?
Our fully licensed bat survey specialists are experienced in survey, European Protected Species licensing and mitigation design and implementation.
We will assist you by undertaking scoping surveys to assess the suitability of your development site for bat habitation. We will provide expert advice on the options and solutions available to you, and should a European Protected Species licence be required, we will complete and submit your licence application.
Please contact us on 029 2065 0331 for more information on bat surveys and other ecological services.