Bat surveys play a crucial role in the planning process in the UK, ensuring that potential impacts on bat populations and their habitats are properly assessed and mitigated. This article aims to shed light on the importance of bat surveys in planning applications, highlighting the key considerations and requirements for developers and applicants to navigate this aspect of the planning process effectively.
Bats are protected species under UK law, and their habitats are safeguarded by various legislation and planning policies. The presence of bats or their potential roosting sites within or near a proposed development area can significantly impact planning decisions. Therefore, it is essential to conduct bat surveys to gather accurate information about their presence and to assess potential impacts on their habitats.
Before embarking on a planning application, it is advisable to conduct preliminary bat assessments. These initial surveys help identify the likelihood of bats being present on or near the development site. Preliminary assessments can be based on desk studies, habitat surveys, and consultation with ecological experts. If indications of bat activity are found, further surveys may be necessary.
There are several types of bat surveys that may be required, depending on the project’s scale and the ecological sensitivities of the area. These surveys include emergence and re-entry surveys, dusk and dawn surveys, and activity surveys using specialized bat detectors. The surveys aim to identify bat species, roost locations, flight paths, and foraging areas.
Bat surveys are highly seasonal due to the life cycle and hibernation habits of bats. Surveys are typically carried out between May and September when bats are most active. However, certain species, such as hibernating bats, may require surveys during the winter months. It is crucial to factor in the appropriate timing of surveys to ensure accurate data collection.
For most planning applications the surveys need to take place between May and September, if the surveys are not planned in advance then it will not be possible to submit a planning application until the surveys have been completed.
Bat surveys must be conducted by ecologists with the necessary expertise and a Natural England bat survey license. These professionals are well-versed in bat ecology, survey methodologies, and the legal requirements associated with protected species. Engaging a qualified ecologist ensures the surveys are conducted to the required standards and that the findings are reliable and credible.
If bat activity or roosts are identified during the surveys, appropriate mitigation and conservation measures should be incorporated into the development plans. This may include retaining or enhancing existing bat habitats, incorporating bat boxes, providing alternative roosting opportunities, or modifying the development design to minimize impacts on bat foraging routes and flight paths.
In cases where significant impacts on bat roosts or their habitats are unavoidable, a European Protected Species (EPS) mitigation license may be required from Natural England. This license is necessary when proposed works could disturb or destroy bat roosts. Developers should work closely with ecologists to ensure compliance with legal requirements and secure the necessary permits.
During the planning application process, it is crucial to liaise and collaborate with the local planning authority and their ecologists. Providing accurate and comprehensive survey reports, mitigation plans, and any required licenses or permits will help streamline the planning process and demonstrate a proactive approach to addressing bat conservation.
After development approval, monitoring and management of bat populations and habitats should continue as part of the long-term commitment to bat conservation. This may involve periodic surveys to assess the success of mitigation measures and ensure ongoing protection of bats.
Bat surveys are an integral part of the planning process in the UK, helping to safeguard these protected species and their habitats. Developers and applicants should recognize the importance of conducting thorough and accurate surveys, engaging qualified ecologists, and incorporating appropriate mitigation measures. By adhering to legal requirements and collaborating with planning authorities, developers can navigate the complexities of bat conservation in planning applications and contribute to the long-term protection of these fascinating creatures.