Opportunities in Berkshire for Roosting Bats
Despite the pressing need for housing, regeneration and other development around Berkshire, planning case officers won’t allow development at the expense of biodiversity, particularly where protected species like bats are concerned. It isn’t surprising that Berkshire is host to a variety of habitats, from the thick woodland of Bracknell Forest to the waterways of the Rivers Loddon and Thames. As a result, local authorities are looking to address the decline caused by urbanisation and protect and preserve biodiversity.
Insofar as the planning system is concerned, there’s an expectation that developers should do what they reasonably can to promote biodiversity in line with the Berkshire Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). As you’d expect, this will apply to both urban and rural developments regardless of whether or not they’re in a conservation area. As well as seeing planning applications refused, failing to meet your obligations to the local bat population and their habitats carries steep penalties. For instance, if you go ahead anyway or mislead the local planning authority in your planning application and subsequently harm bats, you could be sent to prison for up to six months, receive an unlimited fine, or both.
There’s simply no getting around the likelihood of bats disrupting your development plans, and if you need a bat survey but don’t provide one, the local planning authorities can refuse your planning application. In 2020, this happened to one developer who wanted to demolish a house in Caversham to make way for two new dwellings. Ecologists working for the local authority asked for bat surveys because the house was close to a cemetery and a number of large trees. The developer failed to provide a bat report to support their application and, as a result, they were refused planning.
Planning refusal could probably have been avoided had they only provided a bat report that contained detailed mitigation measures, especially as Reading City Council has instilled a core strategy indicating that the local authority is eager to deliver on the growing housing requirement. In fact, a need for 16,077 new homes by 2036 has been identified in Reading alone, and the need for housing is just as profound elsewhere in Berkshire, with one study determining a need for 4,900 new homes per year, every year, until 2036 to meet demand.
Full Range of Bat Species
14 of the 18 bat species native to the UK are found in Berkshire, and many of these species are present in reasonable numbers. Species include the barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandti), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri), noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) and whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).
Cautionary Measures for Bats
Although the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) offers protection over bats on a nationwide basis and other regulators such as Natural England provide safeguarding to the country’s many protected species such as great crested newts, a dedicated group is created to watch over the conservation of bats in a chosen area. Berkshire, for instance, has duties split between the county and South Buckinghamshire under the guidance of the Berks & South Bucks Bat Group.
Activities, exercises and practices conducted by the Berks and South Bucks Bat Group consist of checking existing bat boxes, creating and monitoring hibernacula, facilitating training, holding indoor meetings, managing projects designed to shine exposure on native bats, monitoring bats using trapping and mist-netting techniques, providing bat care, running talks, walks and public events, and surveying local bats in flagged hotspots.
Bat Surveys and the Resulting Reports
In circumstances where you or your local council have determined a reasonable likelihood for bats, bat roosts or bat activity on your development site, the first step would consist of an extended phase 1 habitat survey. It also may have been prompted following a preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) or a similar baseline assessment that uncovered suspected or proven bat occupancy. Otherwise known as a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) or bat scoping survey, the phase 1 assessment is step one and revolves around an ecological consultant looking over the site for indications of bats.
A benefit to phase 1 bat surveys is that they are fast and straightforward. The ecologist will attend the site and search for bats, and if they don’t find any, other signs of their presence such as a bat roost, bat droppings, carcasses, prey remains or potential roosting features will suffice. In an ideal scenario, no bats or evidence will be found and the bat survey report will reflect that, pointing towards no reason to deny planning consent. A second survey will, however, be needed if the ecological surveyor is unable to rule out bats or bat roosts on the site, leading to the phase 2 assessment in the bat survey process.
Alternatively known as bat emergence and re-entry surveys (BERS) or bat activity surveys, phase 2 bat surveys can only be held during summer months, specifically between May and September. At this point, several qualified ecologists will visit the site at dusk and dawn multiple times and monitor suspected entry and exit points. Using specialist equipment, the ecological consultants will aim to record bat calls and populations, inevitably uncovering the bat species present in the local vicinity, with likely results in Berkshire expected to include brown long-eared bats or soprano pipistrelle bats.
Once all bat surveys have concluded, the bat survey report can be assembled to outline all findings and set out suitable mitigation if it is needed to continue the development project without any concern that it will disturb bats. In addition, if other European protected species are identified, the report will cover any need for further protected species surveys or instructions for gaining protected species licences if a European protected species licence is required to deal with bats accordingly. With all issues addressed from the bat surveys, local planning authorities should accept the application for planning permission.
Contact Us for Your Free Quote
Any bat surveys you have will be managed by a local expert from our full-time ecology team. Thanks to a powerful and efficient home-working setup, we have bat survey experts that can carry out a preliminary roost assessment or multiple bat activity surveys anywhere in the country. Disciplines in a variety of relevant areas also means that they can then advice on other protected species surveys if they are needed before a viable application for planning consent can be put forward to the local council.
You should avoid complications caused by a bat roost or roosting bats on your development site by referring to the insight and expertise of our team upon completion of the suitable bat surveys. All you need to do to get in touch is check out the top of this page, where you will see options to phone us or fill out a contact form. We can then take down your details and use them to produce a free quote for the bat surveys you need. On a predetermined date, one of our ecologists will visit your development site to undertake the bat surveys and assist you in your quest for planning permission.