Advice from the Bat Conservation Trust

One of STAG’s supporter recently contacted the Bat Conservation Trust regarding bats that may be threatened by development.  Here is the advice the BCT have provided:

Bats and the law
In the UK, bats and their roosts are protected by law whether occupied or not. It is illegal to damage, destroy or disturb any bats or roosts without having taken the necessary precautions. A roost is defined as any place that a wild bat uses for shelter or protection and the roost is protected whether bats are present in it or not.
The ‘Supporting Legislation’ section in ‘The planning system’ leaflet attached provides a more in-depth overview of bats and the legal system.
How you can help
Contact your local authority or council building control (if it is regarding a demolition and not part of a wider planning application) to find out whether a bat survey has been carried out.  If you know bats use the site or bat presence is likely then you are within your rights to request that a survey be completed if one has not been carried out.
The most effective way to contact your local authority is in writing, but we advise that you also follow this up with a phone call to ensure your enquiry is on record. Where possible we would also encourage you to send the letter to the applicant making them aware of possible bat presence.
Local authorities usually acknowledge receipt of letters within five working days so if you do not hear back from the local authority within this time we suggest that you contact them again. You may then need to follow up with them beyond this to request an update. We recommend that you retain a trail of correspondence in case evidence is required later on e.g. if contacting your Local Government Ombudsman if unsatisfied with the response from your local authority or if police require this as part of an investigation.  Please refer to the attached leaflet for more information.
Planning authorities must abide by a number of rules which, if known, can be used to enforce good practice and protect bats. The ‘Getting Your Voice Heard’ and ‘Submitting a Written Objection’ sections in the attached leaflet outline how best to approach this and give good guidance on how to compose an official letter.
You can find details of whether a survey has been carried out and what was found in the planning application documents. Most local authorities publish information on planning applications on their websites, or you can call the office directly and ask how this may be made available to you.  You can find more information on the planning process and the website address for your local planning authority on the Planning Portal: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/inyourarea/searchapplications.
You could also contact your local bat group for information about bats in the area, especially with regard to recorded bat roosts and bat sightings in the county. However, please be aware that bat groups are voluntary organisations and many do not have the resources to respond to planning related enquires. Bat group details can be found at: www.bats.org.uk/batgroups.
Your local biological record centre may hold information about bats rather than the bat group. Record centre details can be found at:http://www.alerc.org.uk/find-an-lerc-map.html
What you should expect of the local authority
The planning authority has a legal obligation to consider whether bats are likely to be affected by a proposed development. If a survey has not already been undertaken to determine the potential for bats on site and/or the presence of bats, the authority should request that the developers commission an appropriate survey.
If a survey demonstrates that development is likely to affect bat foraging and/or commuting habitat then linear features such as tree lines should be retained, and compensatory planting should be considered wherever possible.
If a survey demonstrates that bats and/or a known roost are likely to be affected by the proposed development, and planning permission is to be granted, a condition should be placed on the decision notice requiring the developer to apply for, and obtain, a European Protected Species Licence before work commences.
The licence will specify planning conditions such as timing of works and mitigation to lessen impacts. If you later suspect that a developer is contravening the conditions of their licence try to check the conditions of the licence with the authority that issued it, this varies depending upon the country (see contact numbers below) and alert the local planning office.
Licensing authority by country:
Natural England- 0300 060 3900
Natural Resources Wales- 0300 065 3000
Scottish Natural Heritage – 01463 725 364
Northern Ireland Environment Agency – 0845 302 0008
If you have viewed the survey report and are not happy with how or when the surveys were carried out, you may wish to take a look at the ‘BCT Bat Survey Guidelines’ to check whether best practice guidance has been followed. This can be downloaded in full via our website http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/batsurveyguide.html. I have also attached a shortened version of the decision process of surveying and licensing. Please inform your local authority if you find that insufficient surveying has taken place. Again we advise that you send a letter and follow up with a call and contact them again if you do not hear back within 5 working days. Please note that for resource reasons we are unfortunately unable to comment on any surveys which have been carried out.
If you witness an offence being committed (e.g. bats being disturbed, bat roost being destroyed, or access blocked) please inform the Police Wildlife Crime Officer in your local area by calling 101 or calling the local Police Force directly, mentioning the ‘Investigative Guidance for bat offences’ (which they can find in the Police Online Knowledge Area (POLKA)) and request an incident number. (If the Wildlife Crime Officer is not available it should not affect the reporting of the incident, please do so anyway). Please also report this incident along with the incident number obtained from the Police to the Bat Conservation Trust so we can follow this up.  If you are aware of a licence breach in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland this should also be reported to the police in the same way.  If the licence breach is in England however, then the matter should be reported to Natural England’s Wildlife Enforcement Specialist on 0300 060 1099.
Bat boxes as a way of encouraging bats
In terms of bat-box ‘musts’ the main things to consider are:
• Temperature: ideally a range of temperatures should be provided and so we recommend two bat boxes (one facing South-West and one facing South-East) are placed in any given area.  If in doubt, ensure the box will receive lots of sunlight and isn’t exposed to strong winds.
• Airflow: because bats do not make nests it is important that the box joints are well sealed.  For this reason we recommend that you don’t use boxes with top-lids because this will create draughts.  Additionally, the entrance slit should be no wider than 15-20mm.
• Surface: bats need to be able to climb up and into the box and therefore rough surfaces are best.  If you are using wood to make the box please ensure it is rough sawn and hasn’t been treated on any of the surfaces the bats will come into contact with (i.e. internal surfaces and ‘landing platform’).
• Placement: bat boxes can be placed on either trees or houses. The ideal site to place a bat box is where bats are known to feed.
• Environment: your bat box should be located close to a linear vegetation feature (tree line or hedgerow) and there should be no branches or other items that will block a bat’s approach to the box.
•  Height: very few species use boxes that are placed low down on trees/house; the higher the box is placed the better (e.g. 2m or above).
Recording Bats
Please record any sightings of bats that do visit your bat boxes on The Big Bat Map: www.bigbatmap.org

You may be interested in taking part in the National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) by counting your local bats.  The NBMP has been running a number of volunteer-led surveys since 1996, the results of which enable us to track changes in bat populations.  The NBMP includes surveys for all levels of experience, from beginner to expert, and there are opportunities for everyone to help out and learn more about bats.  For more information on the surveys we run and to sign up to take part, please visit: http://nbmp.bats.org.uk/Surveys.aspx.

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