East Sussex’s Abundance of Potential Roosting Sites
With ancient woodland and lush habitats in abundance, it is no wonder that all of the UK’s 17 breeding species of bat are found in East Sussex. The impact of climate change and creeping urbanisation, however, have led to the steady loss of habitats throughout South East England, and the county of East Sussex is no exception. That said, even the emphasis on retaining ecological value and reversing negative effects on the environment can’t halt the pressing need for development within the county.
The East Sussex Environment Strategy makes specific reference to an estimated 10% increase in the population by 2032, along with a 14% increase in the number of households as persons per household decline. For this level of growth to work, the construction of 2,000 new homes per year in the county – together with all the associated infrastructure – is required. A balance needs to be struck between the development necessities of the community and the natural environment that wildlife requires to thrive. As a result, the presence of bats on your site will have a material impact on how your local authority treats your planning application.
If your development is near a body of water like the Buckshole Reservoir in Hastings, the likelihood of encountering bats increases because bats are regularly found foraging the abundant supply of insects that are drawn to bodies of water. Similarly, bats favour the grid-like street layout in Eastbourne and the county’s other seaside towns because the predictable patterns facilitate navigation by echolocation. Add in bat-friendly roosting features like slate roofs and gable ends and you have an ideal habitat.
It is worth noting that the local authorities are keen to preserve and enhance ecological features that support wildlife. For instance, Lewes District Council partnered with a local golf club to restore a habitat that was lost when 30 trees were felled – a sign that when local authority budgets were shrinking, ecological concerns remained high on the agenda. As for development, there are lots of opportunities throughout the county, such as two applications for large developments near Crowborough containing up to 150 and 130 houses that were recently approved by Wealden District Council and a revolutionary modular housing development that uses solar panels to go off the grid for three to four months a year that was approved by Lewes District Council.
In simple terms, local planners are not going to grant planning consents for developments that actively harm protected species but will use policy and evidence to make their final decision. This is why a bat survey and the corresponding bat survey report are vital components in demonstrating to your local planning authority that you have ticked all of their boxes as part of the early planning stage of your development project.
The Many Species of Bat
As previously mentioned, due to the rural nature of the county, all of the UK’s breeding species of bats are present in East Sussex. The most common East Sussex bat species include the 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) and whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).
Legislation and the Bat Conservation Trust
Looking at the tangible legal obligations that developers are held to, harming bats or their habitats without permission is a criminal offence. The sanctions available to the local authorities range from severe to profound, including the option of an unlimited fine or even imprisonment. Parameters surrounding the treatment of bats are explained across multiple acts of legislation, including the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
Widespread coverage of bats is offered by the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), but instead of having a specific group tailored to East Sussex, bats in the county are safeguarded by the Sussex Bat Group (SBG). It was originally formed in 1984 to oversee the protection of bats throughout Essex, including both East and West Sussex. Among a long list of aims and duties, the Sussex Bat Group works to help conserve bats while raising awareness of them through retrieving data about them, assisting Natural England, conducting conservation projects, running talks, and providing care to injured bats.
Two Types of Bat Surveys
Formalised assessments on bats are made up of two separate inspections. If the first is sufficient, the second won’t be needed, but it is perfectly likely that both will be required to grant planning permission. The first bat survey is known as a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) or bat scoping survey and involves a bat surveyor viewing all parts of the development site for hints that bats or bat roosts are present, such as bat droppings, feeding remains, carcasses, or features that could be appetising to roosting bats.
In cases where there are no bats or low-quality habitats, your bat report alone should be enough to secure planning consent. If, however, the ecologist finds bats, evidence that they are somewhere on the site at some point in the year or substantial habitats, the local authority will likely ask you for further surveys. The second set of bat surveys that will be utilised are known as bat emergence and re-entry surveys (BERS), bat activity surveys or dusk and dawn surveys, and they require the involvement of a few ecological consultants over several visits to the site.
Differing from the PRA that can be conducted all year round, bat emergence surveys are only applicable between the months of May and September. Bat ecologists use a bat activity survey as an opportunity to keep tabs on suspected entry and exit points on the site using specialist equipment such as bat detectors and infrared cameras. The information will then determine the bat species and populations present, and confirm the locations where bats return to the site. A bat report will then compile all information from the bat surveys and give the local planning authority all the data needed to approve planning consent.
Organise an Inspection for Your Project
On top of conducting preliminary roost assessments and bat emergence and re-entry surveys/dusk and dawn surveys, our ecological consultancy team is qualified and trained in a wide range of European protected species surveys. That means our ecological consultants can confirm the likely absence of bats on your development site or ensure that your plans will not disturb bats in bat activity surveys during the active season before moving across to the necessary protected species surveys if any other European protected species are identified.
One of Arbtech‘s many commitments to clients is that all areas will be covered and all clients will be catered for. The pledge guarantees that ecological consultants are available to evaluate the presence of bats on any development site in the country. With their help, you can then work out if roosting bats or bat roosts are in the local vicinity, and use the insight from bat scoping surveys and bat activity surveys to navigate suitable steps forward. For a free quote, email us, call us or visit our contact page, and our team will create a quotation based on your details. If you are happy with it and wish to progress, let us know and we will arrange the bat surveys you need to bolster planning applications.