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Information for anyone commissioning a Bat Survey


Why do I need a bat survey?
Bats and the law.
What happens in a bat survey?
What might it cost?
What happens if bats are found?
What should I look for in a bat survey?
Why do I need a bat survey?
All species of bats in the UK are protected by law. This does not just apply to the bats themselves, but to the places they live, such as their roosts, and sometimes the places they feed. When a planning application is made to the local planning authority (LPA), they have to determine whether the application will affect any species protected by law, which includes bats. Some LPAs have sophisticated methods they apply to determine whether bats are likely to be affected by the development, others use a more simple set of guidelines. If the development is in a rural area, includes old buildings or even is close to water (areas preferred by bats), then you may be required to have a bat survey undertaken. In many cases it is speedier to have the survey undertaken prior to the application being made since bat surveys can only be done at certain times of year.
The bat survey will determine:
  1. If bats are present or not.
  2. If bats are present, the number and species.
  3. The likelihood that the development will affect the bats.
  4. Any mitigation or changes to the development that can be done to minimise the effect on bats.

Bats and the law
There are 17 species of bats resident in England. They are protected by three main pieces of legislation. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 first provided protection to bats and their roosts, making it illegal to harm or disturb bats and/or their roosts. It is important to note that bat roosts are protected whether the bats are in them or not, so destroying a roost in winter which is used by bats during the summer is still deemed to be illegal. This legislation is amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 so that the word "reckless" is added to the offence of disturbing a bat or roost. This means that it is not only an offence to deliberately disturb or destroy a bat roost, but also to fail to take proper precautions in identifying if bats are present before starting a development. Finally, the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 also protects bats and their roosts. This piece of legislation provides a mechanism for applying for licenses to undertake work where bats are present, so if bats are present in the development are are likely to be affected by it, a European Protected Species (EPS) will need to be obtained.
In 2010, a new version of the Habitats Regulations, termed 'The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010' came into force in England and Wales, containing updates and amendments to the regulations since they were first made in 1994. These are the regulations that the legal process concerning bats now mostly operate under.

As far as planning in concerned, in order to comply with the law, the LPA will use Policy Statement 9 on Biodiversity and Geological Conservation (PPS9) which states that the presence of protected species is a material consideration when considering a development proposal. The full guidance of PPS9 can be found here, though this is under review and will be replaced shortly.
What happens in a bat survey?
A bat survey should establish whether there are bats using the proposed development site or whether there are bats in close enough proximity to it to be disturbed. The main activity period for bats is between mid-May to around mid-September, and this is when surveys should be undertaken during a period of warm dry weather. Bat surveys can be undertaken at other times of the year to look for signs of bats such as droppings, but these will not be able to establish the number or species of bats present unless the area is being used by bats for hibernation. Surveys undertaken outside of the main field season may well be able to detect the presence of bats, but are less likely to be able to confirm their absence. In most cases, a follow-up survey would be recommended for the summer.
The survey will initially inspect the exterior and interior of any buildings looking for signs of bats. These include droppings, dead bats or bats themselves. This survey will also identify any potential areas for further inspection at dusk. Crevices may be inspected by borescope, which is used in structural surveys to explore small narrow areas with limited access. A dusk survey would then normally be carried out, looking for bats emerging from any buildings or trees. Bats would be listened for using bat detectors which can pick up the ultrasonic echolocation calls of bats, and also possibly infrared video. Depending on the site, this may then be followed up by a dawn survey to detect bats returning in the morning. The advantage of this is that it is usually quite light when bats return and they often spend more time flying around the roost, making it easier to find any entrance holes or roost sites.

For small sites, one visit may sometimes be enough, but for larger sites with multiple buildings, repeat visits may be necessary or may need more that one surveyor per visit.

The results of the survey will then be presented in a report, much like the report from a building structural survey. A set of guidelines for planning authorities to assess whether the bat survey has been of sufficient standard can be found here. A more extensive set of guidelines complied by the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) on standards and good practice can be found here.
What might it cost?
At the very minimum, for a single small building, a bat survey during the summer will take two working days, one to conduct the survey during the day and overnight, and one to produce the report, though most guidelines suggest at least two visits to the site. Prices vary, but a typical daily rate is in the region of £250 to £350 per day, so for a small survey £500-£700 plus expenses. This is the same level as a typical house survey used by mortgage lenders to survey and value a property. More complex sites with more buildings would obviously be more, and a quote is usually given for any particular site to take into account the size and nature of the development. There may be additional costs such as a fee for consulting the local biological records centre for records of any known local bat roosts.
What happens if bats are found?
If a bat roost is found within the development, then it has legal protection. In many cases, it is possible to modify the development to minimise the disturbance to bats, such as carrying out the work at certain times of year or modifying the development to ensure that disturbance is minimised and all roost exits are maintained - this is termed 'mitigation'. Your bat survey should contain information on any suggested impact and the measures needed to reduce it, the objective being to maintain the present roost and the numbers of bats.

Your ecological consultant should be able to advise on whether the proposed development is likely to result in an office under Regulation 41 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (guidance notes available here). If the roost is likely to be affected directly, either by being disturbed, modified or demolished, then you may need to obtain a European Protected Species (EPS) mitigation license before you can commence work. This licence is obtained from the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO), which in England is Natural England. Licences will need to be completed with an experience ecological consultant and must show appropriate mitigation for the loss or damage to the roost. Licence information and forms can be found here. If the development is considered unlikely to result in an offence under Regulation 41, then no EPS license is needed. Currently it is a grey area as to when an EPS license is needed, and depends on the species of bats likely to be affected, their number and the level of disturbance. Your consultant should be able to advise.
What should I look for in a bat survey and ecological consultant?
In order for the LPA to take the bat survey seriously, the ecological consultant should be able to demonstrate a high level of competence and experience. Emergence or dawn surveys using a bat detector can be undertaken without a license, however, anyone entering or disturbing a suspected roost, including examining one by borescope, or capturing or handling bats will require a license to do so from the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO). Such licenses are issued annually and on a county by county basis and are only issued to individuals who can demonstrate that they are competent to survey for bats. The license may also cover other individuals who are nominees of the licence holder. The license or a copy of it should be carried when undertaking bat surveys. In addition, ecological or environmental consultants may be members of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM), a body which works to develop the competency and standards of ecological and environmental consultants. Finally, consultants should have public liability insurance, which will cover any accidental damage to the property during the survey.

The survey itself should be impartial. The bat survey is there to provide guidance on whether an offence under Regulation 41 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 is likely or unlikely to happen during the development. It may suggest measures to be taken to make an offence less likely and it is the developers best interests to follow these. Most individuals surveying for bats are keen conservationists, and are more than happy to suggest ways of incorporating 'bat friendly' features into the development.