Avoid planning delays because of bats: Surveys for Essex Developers
If you want to develop a site or demolish a building in Essex, you may need a bat survey before the local planning authority gives you planning permission.
Every development is different, so if the local authority does ask you for a bat report, the reasoning will vary. However, the requests all have one thing in common – there are likely bats on or near your site at some point in the year.
Whilst Essex isn’t exactly a bat hotspot, hosting only 10 of the UK’s 18 species, they’re still present. Therefore, depending on where your scheme is and what you’re planning to do, they could affect how the local authority views and handles your planning application.
But how do you know that you need a bat survey?
The question of whether or not a bat survey is required can be a tricky one.
That said, there will be a clear “yes” or “no” answer. But, the only body qualified to give it to you is your local planning authority. Therefore, if you’re not sure, get in touch with them early. If you don’t, you risk a costly delay to your scheme because some bat surveys (specifically, phase 2 bat surveys or dusk dawn bat surveys) can only be carried out between May and September.
Whilst we can’t tell you that you need or don’t need a bat survey, we can say that certain environments or buildings are more likely than others to play host to a bat habitat.
For example, if your scheme is in or on the boundaries of Epping Forest it would be sensible to think about bats. This is because bats are drawn to woodland as it contains an abundance of roosting habitats and food. The delineated edges also aid in navigation by echolocation in much the same was as the terraced avenues you’ll see in towns like Colchester and Braintree. Speaking of terraces – slate roofs (especially when slates are damaged or loose) and gable ends provide easy access to the warm and dry loft space within. Some bats are tiny and can squeeze through gaps about the size of a 20p coin. Something to think about even if you’ve lived in a property for decades without ever seeing a bat…
It’s a common misconception that bats don’t roost or hunt in coastal regions. There’s evidence to indicate that bats are active near the cliff face at the Naze, as well as on small coastal islands. Interestingly, patterns show that Essex may well lie on a migration route between the UK and continental Europe. So, just because your development is in a coastal town like Southend-on-Sea doesn’t mean you won’t have to contend with bats. Especially if your scheme involves or is close to older buildings (remember – small gaps!).
Ultimately, you have a legal obligation to protect bats and their habitats. Indeed, it’s a criminal offence to even disturb them without permission; the consequences for doing so range from the severe to the profound and include an unlimited fine or even a prison sentence.
Build, build, build in Essex: 2021
It’s important to note that these measures aren’t there to stop development altogether. They’re simply there to ensure that development that does take place doesn’t outright harm our vulnerable bat population.
It’s perfectly possible to meet your development aspirations in Essex as the local authorities generally view development proposals in a positive light.
To give some recent examples, Basildon’s skyline could soon be transformed by a massive 240ft tall, 300-apartment complex as part of ongoing efforts to regenerate the town centre. Harlow District Council’s new local plan to 2033 has identified a variety of sites, which together are capable of delivering 16,100 new homes. This figure includes new “garden communities” in the South and West of Harlow that will eventually lie in the Epping Forest District. Epping itself will likely see a new leisure facility and retail park after a £500k working capital loan was approved by the local council. And Maldon District Council have approved a large retirement development in Burnham-on-Crouch that contains a mixture of bungalows, assisted living apartments, a care home, and even a sports facility.
Smaller developers are benefiting too; for instance, planning permission has been granted for the conversion and refurbishment of farm buildings near Chelmsford that date back to 1750. These smaller development companies and homeowners will likely be instrumental in meeting Essex’s soaring housing shortage. Brentwood alone will have over 200 fewer dwellings than the number needed to keep up with population growth by 2041 – and that’s at the mild end of the scale. In Basildon, that figure stands at 4,490.
Yet, even though there is pressing need for development, this will not be permitted at the expense of protected species, including bats.
This is why you need to engage a licenced bat surveyor as soon as possible if your scheme is likely to disturb bats. Otherwise, the chances of you securing planning permission are slim to none.
How a bat survey helps you get planning permission
Planning Officers make decisions based on policy and evidence. So, whilst it might sometimes feel like their decisions are arbitrary, the reality is quite different and robust supporting documents can have a material impact on the outcome of your application.
So, if your scheme is likely to adversely affect the local bat population, a bat report gives your planning Case Officer the evidence they need to defend their decision to grant consent.
Fortunately, bat surveys are quite straightforward.
There are two broad “types” of bat report:
- Phase 1 bat surveys (also known as walkover bat surveys or scoping bat surveys)
- Phase 2 bat surveys (you may have heard these called emergence bat surveys or nocturnal bat surveys)
If you do need a survey, unsurprisingly, you’ll need a phase one survey first.
These can be carried out at any point in the year. In brief, a licenced bat ecologist will come to your site look for bats, and inspect potential habitats. If they don’t find any evidence bats are roosting or using your site for something (usually hunting or navigation) and any potential habitats are of low quality the survey and report alone are usually enough to satisfy the local authority.
However, if there are bats on your site and/or there’s reasonable potential for roosting or other activities, the local authority will probably ask you for more surveys. These phase two bat surveys can only be carried out between May and September because this is when bats are most active. They’re more detailed and give your bat surveyor the information they need tell you how to carry out your scheme without causing unacceptable harm to the local bat population. The measures they suggest will vary and depend on a plethora of factors including, but not limited to population numbers, species, and habitat type.
Make no mistake, bats are an obstacle that you’re going to have to overcome to see your development come to fruition. But it’s in no way an insurmountable hurdle.
Choose Arbtech, and you don’t even need to worry about being refused planning because of bats.
Because we guarantee that our bat report and advice will get your development planning permission.
If it doesn’t (but it will) we’ll give you your money back.
How do we know?
Because we’ve been solving bat problems for developers and homeowners for 16 years.
As of 2021, our bat reports have been critical factors for well above 15,000 people getting planning permission for their development – hundreds of them in Essex alone.
Add this to up to three thousand successful projects nationally per year, every year, and we’ve got heaps of data to back this claim up.
Our 30+ strong team of licenced bat surveyors only carry out bat surveys for planning permission. If it’s not to do with planning, we don’t touch it. This means our people have the expertise you need to get planning permission for your development first time.
All of our bat ecologists are set up to work from home. As a result, the bat surveyor who visits your site will have lived and worked in and around Essex for years, if not decades. The value of local knowledge when conducting a bat survey can’t be overstated. Understanding how the local planning authority makes decisions and being aware of the special interest groups that routinely object to planning applications can make all the difference.
Using local bat specialists brings one more crucial benefit – speed.
If you need a phase one bat survey, you’ll only need to wait three to four days for your completed survey and report on the overwhelming majority of occasions.
Not fast enough?
Talk to us about investing in a weekend survey or next working day report.
Obviously, we can’t do phase two bat surveys out of season, but we work just as fast between May and September (you will need to book in advanced ASAP as our slots disappear rapidly the closer we get to May).
Essex Bat Surveyors you can trust to get planning permission
If you want your bat survey Essex to be managed by a local bat specialist and contain all the advice you need to get planning permission (or your money back), choose Arbtech.
Edgar, L. 2021. Local plan adopted by Harlow. [Online]. Available from: https://www.theplanner.co.uk/news/local-plan-adopted-by-harlow (Accessed 18th February 2021)
Edwards, F. 2020. Burnham retirement village given the green light by Maldon District Council. [Online]. Available from: https://www.maldonandburnhamstandard.co.uk/news/18782752.burnham-retirement-village-given-green-light-maldon-district-council/ (Accessed 18th February 2021)
Essex Bat Group. N.D. Bat habitats of Essex. [Online]. Available from: http://essexbatgroup.org/about/bat-habitats-of-essex/ (Accessed 18th February 2021
Essex Bat Group. N.D. Bats of Essex. [Online]. Available from: http://essexbatgroup.org/about/bats-of-essex/(Accessed 18th February 2021)
Gray, B. 2021. Basildon Masterplan: Basildon’s ‘tallest building ever’ set to dominate the skyline. [Online]. Available from: https://www.essexlive.news/news/essex-news/basildon-masterplan-basildons-tallest-building-4989088(Accessed 18th February 2021)
Hastings, H. 2020. Proposed St John’s Road, Epping redevelopment site receives 500k loan from District Council. [Online]. Available from: https://www.eppingforestguardian.co.uk/news/18180289.proposed-st-johns-road-epping-redevelopment-site-receives-500k-loan-district-council/#:~:text=Epping%20Forest%20District%20Councillors%20agreed,and%20a%20public%20realm%20area(Accessed 18th February 2021)
Ingram, P. 2019. The Essex towns where there ‘won’t be enough houses’ for everyone by 2041. [Online]. Available from: https://www.essexlive.news/news/essex-news/essex-towns-wont-enough-houses-3527226 (Accessed 18th February 2021)
Mauro-Benady, R. 2021. Essex run-down barns that could be transformed into the perfect home up for auction now. [Online]. Available from: https://www.essexlive.news/news/essex-news/essex-run-down-barns-could-4983754(Accessed 18th February 2021)
The Countryside Charity Essex. 2019. Bats at Marks Hall: a conservation success story. [Online]. Available from: http://cpressex.org.uk/bats-at-marks-hall-a-conservation-success-story/ [Accessed 18th February 2021)