Common Buckinghamshire Natural and Architectural Features
When considering whether your development site in Buckinghamshire is likely to contain bats or bat roosts, the local geography can be quite telling. Watercourses like the River Wye that runs through High Wycombe or smaller streams, ponds and ditches are very attractive to bats for a number of reasons.
Ponds and ditches provide plenty of food in the form of small insects that swarm over the water, any trees make excellent shelter, and the hedgerows and banks aid navigation by echolocation. It is worth keeping in mind that your site needn’t be adjacent to water to play host to one or more bats either, with bats ranging surprisingly far, meaning that even just being near to water should alert you to the possibility of a bat problem.
Bats also tend to favour a blend of urban and natural features, as you’ll find in Milton Keynes. Interestingly, a major developer seeking to build 73 new homes in the town has been asked to put several measures in place to protect the local bat population, including the exceedingly rare barbastelle bat. These proposed measures will affect the street light design and involve planting 110 metres of species-rich hedgerow.
Building Buckinghamshire’s Future
There’s plenty of development underway in Buckinghamshire, with more planned for the future. For example, Milton Keynes has only achieved 93.8% of the housing requirement stipulated by the Central Government’s Housing Delivery Test between 2016/17 and 2018/19. As a result, they’ve created a Housing Delivery Action Plan that has – amongst other things – unlocked £90 million of Housing Infrastructure Funding to speed up the delivery of a significant site near the M1.
HS2 is under fire from local conservation groups for felling trees and disturbing buildings in the critical summer months of May through to September. These concerns were raised despite them being granted a licence to do so after risk assessments and putting mitigation measures in place. As mentioned above, some development schemes are more likely to affect bats. Either because of the type of building involved, specific activities, or both.
Species of bat are various and widespread throughout Buckinghamshire, from the ubiquitous common pipistrelle to the vanishingly rare barbastelle. No matter how frequently spotted any particular species is, however, all bats are noted as a European protected species, with protection held by weighty legislation, namely the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. Therefore, you won’t be surprised to read that the local authorities are doing everything they can to create an environment where Buckinghamshire’s bats can survive and thrive.
Development Schemes That Could Harm Buckinghamshire’s Bats
In some cases, you will need a bat survey before you can get planning permission, especially in Buckinghamshire, and seeing a successful planning application for a development projects that harm local wildlife is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. It’s not just private developers that will face scrutiny from the local authority when it comes to applications either, with critical national infrastructure projects unable to avoid exemptions and probing questions.
Certain features on or near your site increase the chance that you’ll find bats, and some activities are more likely to be disruptive to the local bat population than others. Any of the local authorities could ask you for a bat survey and report if they feel that there is a risk of bats being displaced by your plans. Though the exact justification will vary, perhaps relating to the age or type of construction of your property, they all have one thing in common – your development is likely to negatively impact the local bat population.
You’d be wise to consider bats if you’re doing a barn conversion or anything involving a bridge. The former because barns are near perfect bat habitats – rural, quiet, with rafters to perch on and a large roof cavity to keep them warm. The latter because of their proximity to water and the easy access to secure, dry shelters for hibernating or raising young via gaps in buttresses or joins where they’ve been widened.
Activities like demolition are inherently disruptive and generally involve abandoned or disused buildings. When people move out, wildlife tends to move in, so the probability of finding a bat in the roof space of an old office block are significantly higher than in an equivalent, occupied building.
Approach for Providing Bat Surveys
If you discover that you do need a bat report, your first step will be a phase one bat survey, better known as a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA). In a site visit, an ecologist will search for evidence of bats, including bat droppings, carcasses or feeding remains, as well as any features that could act as a suitable location for roosting bats, such as gaps in buildings, trees, loose roof tiles or hanging tiles on any part of the building – a common occurrence in agricultural buildings and historic buildings. From there, the ecological surveyor will need to distinguish whether the development plans are likely to disturb bats on the site, if bats are proven or suggested to be present.
Once it has been confirmed that there are no bats, the ecological consultant will produce the necessary bat reports for passing on to the local planning authority as part of the planning application. Alternatively, it will not be possible to entirely rule out bat occupancy, and a phase two bat survey will be needed in the form of a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS). Often regarded as Bat Emergence Surveys, Bat Activity Surveys or Dusk and Dawn Re-Entry Surveys, BERS assessments require multiple ecological consultants to attend the site over several visits at dusk and dawn within bat active season to gauge bat activity.
More specifically, phase two bat surveys focus on utilising bat detectors and monitoring the site to note where the entry and exit points are, what the population numbers are, and which of the many species of bat are present. An ecology report can then be assembled by the consultant ecologist to reflect their findings, with mention of likely impacts on the development, ecological constraints caused by the development, and measures that will enable the planning project to continue. It can then be forwarded to the local planning authority to help with successfully securing planning applications.
Call in the Help of Our Bat Ecologists
From years of providing the country with ecological surveys, we hold extensive experience for assisting planning applications in countless previous projects. Alongside offering a bat roost assessment and bat emergence survey any time a bat roost is spotted or bat occupancy is suspected, our case studies show that we can undertake further surveys for other European protected species, such as protected species surveys for badgers, great crested newts or reptiles.
All of our ecological consultants possess the qualifications and licensing for conducting bat surveys, other European protected species surveys, a wide range of ecological surveys and even assessments for biodiversity net gain (BNG) with the required level of detail. Links to the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and Natural England / Natural Resources Wales also enable them access to the latest standards. If you suspect roosting bats on your development site, we are the ones to call for conducting bat surveys at the highest possible standard and obtaining planning permission.
Access a free quote based on the unique specifications of your planning project and development site by speaking to our team and passing on your information. You can contact us by calling the number or entering the form at the top of this page, and providing you give us accurate details about your development plans, we can send across a quote that is reflective of your needs. On a chosen date, one of our ecology team will attend the site for a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) and ensure that the bat surveys we carry out tick all of the boxes to support you in your pursuit of a planning application.