Habitat Suitability Across Essex
While Essex isn’t exactly a bat hotspot – hosting only 10 of the UK’s 18 bat species – they are still present. Therefore, depending on where your scheme is and what you are planning to do, they could affect how the local authorities view and handle your planning application. The planning process of every development is different, so if the local authority does ask you for a bat report, the reasoning will vary. The requests, however, all share that they are a result of the expected occupancy of bats on or near your site.
Although we can’t strictly tell you that you need or don’t need a bat survey or any other form of ecological survey or legally protected species 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, as bats are drawn to woodland due to the abundance of roosting habitats and food.
The delineated edges also aid in navigation by echolocation in much the same way as the terraced avenues you’ll see in towns like Colchester and Braintree. Speaking of terraces, slate roofs and gable ends provide easy access to the warm and dry loft space within, particularly as some bats are tiny and can squeeze through gaps around the size of a 20p coin. Likewise, it would be worthwhile to consider other ecological surveys that may be needed based on the habit behaviours of other European protected species.
It’s a common misconception that bats don’t roost or hunt in coastal regions. In fact, evidence indicates that bats are active near the cliff face at the Naze, as well as on small coastal islands, and 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 that you won’t have to contend with bats.
Ultimately, you have a legal obligation to protect bats and their habitats, and it’s a criminal offence to even disturb them without permission. The consequences for disrupting bats range from severe to profound and include an unlimited fine or even a prison sentence. If you want to develop a site or demolish a building in Essex, you may need to consider a bat survey before the local planning authority will grant you planning permission to begin your proposed works.
Build, Build, Build in Essex
It’s important to note that these measures aren’t there to stop development altogether and 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.
Additionally, Harlow District Council’s new local plan for 2033 has identified a variety of sites, which together are capable of delivering 16,100 new homes, including 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.
Maldon District Council has also 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, with planning applications 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, the figure stands at 4,490. That said, even though there is a pressing need for development, this will not be permitted at the expense of European protected species, including bats.
Surveys for Roosting Bats
Once a developer has determined the presence of bats through a closer view of the development site or a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) / Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) has identified possible bat roost sites, it will be mandatory for bat surveys to be conducted. The natural first step commences with a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA), where an ecologist will undertake inspections for signs of bat roosting sites, such as bat droppings, the remains of prey, bat carcasses, and bat roosts or potentially suitable roosting features.
A likely absence of bats will often lead to the ecological surveyor affirming that no further survey work is needed and supporting the application for planning consent. In any circumstance where the occupancy of bats has been confirmed or cannot be ruled out, a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS) could be needed to gather more information about present bats. Likewise, the identification of existing or new habitats for other fully protected species such as barn owls, great crested newts or water voles would trigger the requirement for additional protected species surveys.
Differing from a PRA, Bat Emergence Surveys can only be carried out between the months of May and September. Also known as bat activity surveys and nocturnal bat surveys among other titles, a BERS consists of multiple experienced ecologists attending the site a handful of times. Using bat detectors, the licenced ecologists will monitor expected entry and exit points and record echolocation calls, allowing them to track various habitats, discount features that aren’t used by roosting bats, and perform population and species identification.
Regardless of the outcome of the bat survey, a report will be created to display the management plans that will enable the development project to continue. If no roosting or foraging bats are found, it will simply assure the local council, supporting the application for planning permission. For outcomes where bats are found or suspected, the bat survey report will contain mitigation schemes for dealing with bats accordingly, help with Natural England bat licence applications, and prompt any other mitigation strategies that will result in planning acceptance.
Choose Arbtech for your Bat Survey Services
Throughout the UK, we are recognised as the best when it comes to ecology surveys. Not only are our ecological surveyors prepared with the qualifications, licensing and extensive experience to undertake bat surveys at the highest standard, but they are also vastly knowledgeable about all relevant areas, including corresponding legislation, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 that protects bats from any efforts to deliberately kill, injure or disturb them in any way.
Between expansive fields with numerous potential roost sites and older buildings with stable temperatures for bats, our ecology team has a proven track record for Essex bat surveys in any setting. As well as Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRAs) and Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS), we can also offer Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (PEAs), Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA) and any other ecology surveys and tree surveys that could benefit development and applications for planning permission.
Start the process of instructing our licenced ecologists to manage your survey work by filling out a quick quote form, calling us directly, or visiting our contact page. We will then send across a free quote, featuring an estimated cost based on your planning project and development site. A date can then be chosen for a bat survey, and from there, one of our bat surveyors can gauge any potential presence of bats, produce mitigation management plans, and tick all of the boxes of the local planning authority that will contribute towards a successful planning application.