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Devon Bat Surveys: Pragmatic and Developer Friendly

If you’ve been asked for bat survey, know you require one as part of planning applications, or even if you have already spoken to an ecologist and are still confused, our team of bat ecologists are helpful, supportive and effective in catering to your needs, carrying out bat surveys, and meeting the specific needs of the local planning authorities in the Devon area.

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Planning Permission Focused Bat Surveyors Based in Devon

A rural county in the South West of England, Devon has it all: sandy shores, coastal cliffs and hilly landscapes. The county is home to two National Parks – Dartmoor and Exmoor – and the English Riviera, known for its almost sub-tropical climate. As if that wasn’t enough, in North Devon, you can find the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Even though the county contains two National Parks, Devon only has roughly 12% canopy coverage from trees, which is quite a lot less than the national average. With that said, this doesn’t stop a wide variety of wildlife taking up residence. Species like tree creepers, woodpeckers and nuthatches use holes in the trees as nesting sites, while brown long-eared bats and pipistrelle bats also use these holes and small crevices. 

Dartmoor National Park is a vast, open moorland that is classed as the largest open space in southern England and defined by thick forests, meandering rivers and wetlands. Here, conservation work such as the overall conservation of habitats is routinely undertaken to support research and observe both protected species and their habitat. Current and past research includes the bog fly, blue ground beetle, moorland birds and the barbastelle bat.

Protective Measures Surrounding Bats

Bats are a European protected species under habitats and species regulations within the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence for anyone to deliberately capture, harm, handle or kill a bat, possess a bat whether alive or dead, disturb a roost, or offer or sell a bat without a relevant class licence.

The Devon Bat Group play a key role in the preservation of the county’s bat species, even for any with favourable conservation status. The aims of the group encompass protecting bat roosts while maintaining and enhancing their habitats within gardens and homes.

They also rehabilitate injured bats and educate people concerned about the species depleting population numbers while explaining potential actions that will reverse negative impacts. Some members also build bat boxes for the bats to roost in. At this point in time, the Devon Bat Group has recorded 16 species of bats out of the total of 18 situated in the UK as a whole.

Devon Bat Occupancy

Some of the bat species located in Devon include Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat, the lesser and greater horseshoe bat, and the grey long-eared bat, all of whom enjoy the South West’s mild climate and diverse landscapes.

Similar in appearance but slightly larger than the common and soprano pipistrelle, the fur on Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat is often longer and paler. Nathusius’ pipistrelle bats are rarely recorded in the UK and are known for emerging from bat roost sites at dusk to hunt along woodland edges and above water.

Roughly the size of a plum, the lesser horseshoe bat is one of the UK’s smallest bat species and hangs upside down with its wings wrapped around its body when resting. They emerge around half an hour after sunset, flying close to the ground and circling over favoured areas.

Likewise, the greater horseshoe bat also hangs upside down with its wings enveloping its body, but they are easier to spot, as they don’t hide in crevices and are one of the UK’s largest species, equating to the size of a pear. The greater horseshoe bat often behaves like a flycatcher bird, watching from a consistent feeding perch and taking insects in flight or from the ground below.

Another bat species present in southern England is the grey long-eared bat – a medium-sized bat with ears almost as long as its body. A woodland species, they are accomplished flyers that emerge in complete darkness and pick up insects from foliage.

Structured Assessments on Bats

With protective legislation and a confirmed presence of bats, if you are planning to do any work on your house, fell a tree, replace a roof, or even carry out more substantial development works such as managing new road schemes or building wind farms, for example, it is vital that you get a qualified ecologist to carry out a bat survey, starting with a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA). Although you may believe that bat surveys are a universal assessment, they are in fact split into two separate stages. Within the overall bat survey process, a PRA is the first stage and consists of an ecological consultant visiting the site and conducting a general scope of the suspected bat roosting place or places.

At this point in the bat survey effort, the ecologist will look for evidence of roosting bats such as small holes and cavities that bats could crawl into for shelter, the remains of prey, or droppings. As bat droppings are similar to mouse droppings but crumble under pressure, we will conduct DNA analysis to confirm that they do indeed belong to bats. If these signs are visible during the bat survey, this will then prompt a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS).

A BERS is the second stage of a bat survey and involves the ecological consultant observing likely bat roosting sites at certain times between dusk and dawn to determine whether there are any bats coming or going from specific bat roosts in their natural range, gaining further information about the bat species present on the site as a result. Upon completion of both bat surveys, you will be required to support your planning permission with a report of the results and supply them to your local council.

Depending on the outcome of the bat survey – or bat surveys – our ecologists will provide you with effective advice via an impactful mitigation design. Using this approach, they will be able to identify methods to safely avoid impacts on the bats that would otherwise obstruct access to the site, enabling your development project to progress past planning by distributing the required further details about a bat roost or bat roosts to the corresponding local authorities.

Call in the Bat Experts

A selection of our ecological surveyors live and work in and around Devon, giving them the ability to undertake bat surveys and provide ecological consultancy in the area and appease the requirements of Devon County Council. Due to strategic positioning of the ecologists in Devon, each of them has an insightful understanding of the statutory authority of Devon County Council and relevant national and European legislation, as well as a pre-existing knowledge of other factors involving ecology in relation to planning such as habitats and species regulations and the role of Natural England and the Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW).

Our ecological consultancy offers multiple different services across the United Kingdom. If you need help arranging bat activity surveys, we can help with that, as well as any other wildlife surveys or further surveys based on the suspected or proven presence of European protected species of animals or plants. Our team can also help with mitigation class licence applications if bats need to be relocated or bat roosts need to be destroyed.

All we need is further information about your development site and project. Call us using the number at the top of this page, fill out a quote form or check out other methods of contacting us, and we can then provide you with a free quote and work alongside you to undertake surveys, satisfy the local planning authority, and secure a successful planning application.

Common Questions

Our leading bat expert in the southwest, Dr James Fielding, is based in Exeter.
Absolutely. We have boots on the ground in Devon, but also in Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall.
Not really. Have a look at our bat survey page and watch the videos if you want to learn more about bat surveys in general: https://arbtech.co.uk/protected-species/bat-surveys/

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