Nature In and Around Cheshire
Between the insects on the canals and waterways of the Mersey Basin that flows through Warrington and the slate roofs on the Victorian terraces across Chester, the county of Cheshire is a haven for bats. While bats are hardy creatures, however, even the smartest and strongest of species can suffer harm as a result of a planning project, especially in the case of hibernating bats.
With the ever-growing green focus and the resultant pressure on developers and homeowners to comply with environmental regulations, you could be forgiven for thinking that local authorities are putting insurmountable barriers in the way of projects big and small. Unfortunately, such an emphasis is unavoidable, as disturbing bats without the explicit consent of the local authority is a criminal offence, with sanctions ranging from severe to profound, including the possibility of prison sentences.
Back in 2021, central Stockport underwent a £1 billion recreation project, supported by the Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC) in an effort to tackle the housing crisis and the evolving role of town centres. The point of the initiative was to drive the construction of homes and support infrastructure to create a modern, green environment for people to live and work. Planning officers are not averse to granting planning permission on large developments providing the developer meets their legal obligations and the project satisfies the conditions laid out in the local plan. That said, they can only grant planning consent if they have sufficient evidence to do so.
No matter where your site is – whether it is in a built-up part of Crewe or out in the countryside – there is always the possibility that bats are nearby, and if they are and you are seeking to develop land or buildings, you need to take steps to protect them and preserve their habitats. Prominent examples of a cautious approach to granting planning consent include an application in Macclesfield back in 2018 that resulted in the nature conservation officer at Cheshire East Council calling for the necessary bat surveys to examine the disused buildings on the development site.
The various local authorities in Cheshire are eager to promote biodiversity. As a result, local planners will analyse your planning application and look for evidence that your project contributes towards that aim. It isn’t always possible, but if this is the case with your development, they will check to see that it doesn’t do harm to bats or their habitats. If it does, a refused application for a planning condition is the likely outcome unless you are able to demonstrate comprehensive mitigation and/or compensation. If this proves anything, it is that if there is any chance that bats are on or near your development site at any point in the year, you are going to need a bat survey if you want to get planning permission.
Species of Cheshire Bats
Across Cheshire, recorded bat species include the Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri), noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and whiskered bat (Myotis alcathoe).
Conservation Measures for Bats and Bat Roosts
Although bats situated throughout the country are offered protection by the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), each area has a dedicated group for the location in question, supporting the implementation of parameters outlined in relevant legislation, namely the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. The Cheshire Bat Group (CBG) has jurisdiction over the county of Cheshire, including Halton, South Manchester, Warrington and the Wirral.
Ever since it was first established in 1986, the CBG has been managed by numerous members, all with the same goal of highlighting bats in the corresponding areas, protecting bats and their roosts, and running educational endeavours to increase the exposure of native bats. Works led by the Cheshire Bat Group include activities to showcase bat conservation, care and rehabilitation to bats that need it, home visits for anyone in need of bat advice, ongoing research, promotional work through talks and walks, bat survey practices, and training sessions.
Analysis of Expected Bat Occupancy
Depending on the purpose of the assessment and the circumstances of the project, a developer may need the first-stage bat survey or both first-stage and second-stage bat surveys. The requirement for survey work over roosting bats will usually either come as the result of a prior preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) or following observations of the site and the surrounding habitat that could point towards a bat roost or resting place in the immediate vicinity.
Better known by many as a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) or bat scoping survey, the phase 1 survey can be performed at any time of the year. An ecological surveyor will use the assessment as an opportunity to look for bats all over the development site using certain signs of occupancy and evidence of bats, such as prey remains, bat roosts, carcasses and potential roost features within natural and man-made parts of the site. Whenever the ecologist finds no signs of roosting bats or roost sites, no further survey work will be needed, and a bat report will be created to support the application for planning consent. Likewise, the same outcome will align if suitably robust measures for present bats can be put forward to ease any concerns over the welfare of bats on the development site.
Alternatively, the development projects will be unable to move forwards due to the presence of substantial bat habitats, and further surveys will be needed before the local planning authority will even consider any applications for a planning condition. The phase 2 survey is limited to the summer months, starting in late Spring and concluding in September. It is known as a bat emergence and re-entry survey (BERS), but has also been labelled as dusk entry and dawn re-entry surveys or bat activity surveys. In emergence surveys, multiple ecological consultants will attend the site several times at dusk and dawn outside of the autumn and winter months with bat detectors and other equipment to record entry and exit points, bat species and bat populations.
Both the preliminary roost assessment and bat emergence survey will result in a bat survey report to confirm or deny the likely absence or presence of bats, detail the development projects or sites inspected, list evidence of bats or lack thereof, raise any concerns such as roosting opportunities that may entice bats and other protected species in the future, supply recommendations for further surveys that may be needed and – once all boxes have been ticked in the eyes of the ecologist that conducted the bat surveys – offer clear support that the local authority can accept any planning applications put forward to them.
Call In Our Bat Ecology Team
Our bat surveyors are the best around, and considering that Arbtech HQ is situated in a barn conversion office in Cheshire, we know everything there is to know about dealing with protected species, undertaking bat surveys, and operating within the strict conditions of legislation that would otherwise hamper your development plans. Each ecologist among our ranks has qualifications at bachelor’s or master’s degree level and has had to complete a rigorous in-house training programme prior to being able to lead on protected species surveys such as bat surveys.
Between our ecology team, we’ve seen pretty much every bat problem under the sun. Not only does that make us particularly proficient in managing your bat survey, but it also means that we can deal with any issue, such as the need for tree climbing and aerial inspections, and if another protected species or priority species is found such as badgers, great crested newts or water voles, we can even conduct the additional protected species surveys as necessary. We also remain in line with the guidance of relevant regulators such as Natural England, so you can rest assured that our advice is to the letter.
If you suspect Cheshire bat species on your development site or if you have found evidence of bat roost sites or potential roost features on a building that you are developing, get in touch with our team, and we can help you to eliminate any issues that would come from continuing your planning project without acknowledgement of bats and other local protected species. Call us on the number above, fill out our quote form or see our contact page, and we can provide you with a free quote. Once you agree to move forwards, we can work out certain times to carry out the bat survey, send ecological consultants to your site, and help you with securing planning applications.