Bats are a European protected species under section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and regulation 39 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) (Amendment) Regulations 2007, which enforces not to kill, harm or disturb Bats, while any property or structure development. In order to safe guard protected species and their habitat, the wildlife countryside act(1981) requires that bats are considered in any planning grants and the requirement of bat survey can be required before taking the planning application for building construction or structure alteration works to the committee. Hence hiring an experienced and licensed ecologist to carry Bat surveys can help in saving huge time and cost before undertaking any property development.
There are various methods and techniques used by the ecological consultants to undertake essential Bat surveys, such as:
Building or Bridge Survey: All areas of the building are examined for physical evidence of bats such as droppings and food remains. They also look for potential places for bat roost entrance holes or shelter.
Woodlands and Trees: This involves a qualified bat ecologist experienced in tree climbing, searching the tree or woodland area for potential or used bat roost sites. This may be mature trees, peeling bark, tree splits or dead trees where signs of bats can be found.
Bat Detectors: These machines allow the ecological Consultant to hear different echo location calls at a frequency audible to the human ear. Each bat species has a distinctive call and can be identified easily using this method.
Emergence Bat Surveys: These surveys occur at buildings where the bats roosts or shelters exists or thought to exist. Damaging or destroying a bat roost is an absolute offence and therefore the best practice will be to undertake an emergence survey before undertaking or checking progress for any work. This includes number of trained observers located in specific positions around the survey site to record bat activity.
Dusk and Dawn Bat Surveys: These surveys can be done at dusk (i.e. evening time) when Bats are active, feeding themselves, forging or commuting from a building to other areas. Bat surveys conducted in evening can help in identifying roosts sites or entrances, confirmation on species identification, count on bats population present in a specific property or building can be done.
Bat surveys are done as the preservation of bats is extremely important and if any building or structure have presence of bats roosts the will be mandatory to submit an application for European Protected Species license before commencing the development. The objective of the application is to minimize the impact of the development on bats. Bat mitigation strategies or schemes can help in designing the property development such that it can avoid disturbing or impacting on bats habitat. An experienced ecologist having Natural England bat license can help in designing and monitoring the bat mitigation schemes.
There are some specific ways followed while designing a bat mitigation which includes avoiding work during breeding season, demolitions must be supervised by an ecological consultant, specially developed roof tiles to allow bat access points, special lighting designs, installing bat boxes or artificial roosts, etc. The bat mitigation design can be done in such a way that it can help protect bats roosts and at the same time the building or structure can be constructed ensuring the required quality and compliance with Building regulations in England.
Pre development bat surveys and hiring an ecological consultant can be extremely useful to get a practical advice and avoid ecological issues. It will guarantee a property or building developer to take right measures on time and avoid any over spending; i.e. saving costs.