Avoid Planning Delays – Bat 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 to begin your proposed works.
The planning process of 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.
While Essex isn’t exactly a bat hotspot – hosting only 10 of the UK’s 18 bat 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 authorities view and handle 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 ecology surveys (specifically, phase 2 bat surveys or Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS)) can only be carried out between May and September.
Although we can’t tell you that you need or don’t need a bat survey or any other 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. 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 way 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.
Likewise, it would be worthwhile to consider other ecological surveys that may be needed based on the habit behaviours of other European protected species. For instance, old outdoor buildings would be appealing roosting sites for barn owls, and bodies of water would be favourable to great crested newts and water voles.
As a result of the many number of legally protected species surveys and other ecological surveys that may or may not my be required on a site, it can be prudent to book an ecological impact assessment or Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) for species identification and to factor these additional considerations into your development management plan.
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 applications have 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 European 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 securing planning applications are slim to none.
How a Bat Survey Helps You Achieve 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 ecology surveys are quite straightforward.
There are two broad “types” of bat report:
- Phase 1 bat surveys (also known as a walkover survey, scoping bat survey or Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA))
- Phase 2 bat surveys (you may have heard these called Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS) or nocturnal bat surveys)
If you do need a survey, unsurprisingly, you’ll need a phase 1 survey first.
These can be carried out at any point in the year. In brief, a licenced bat ecologist will come to your site to look for bats and inspect potential habitats. If they don’t find any evidence that 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 authorities.
However, if there are bats on your site and/or reasonable potential for roosting or other activities, the local authority will probably ask you for more surveys. These phase 2 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, bat species, and habitat type.
Management plans for progressing the project despite the presence of bats on the site include creating new habitats for roosting bats to relocate to, moving the bats outside of the site or altering the planning process to avoid disrupting inhabiting bats.
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.
Pick Arbtech for an Essex Ecology Survey
Choose Arbtech, and you don’t even need to worry about being refused planning applications because of bats.
Because we guarantee that our bat report and advice will get your development planning consent.
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 applications. 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 consent for your development first time, as well as a proven track record and extensive experience of survey work with various habitats, ensuring you are given the best possible service and effective habitat management plans to benefit your proposed works.
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 1 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 2 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 Gain Planning Permission
If you want your bat survey in Essex to be managed by a local bat specialist and contain all the advice you need to get planning applications approved (or your money back), Arbtech can help. We are experienced in carrying both phase 1 and phase 2 ecological surveys for bats, protected species surveys, tree surveys and other surveys to support your development.
For a free quote, fill out the form at the bottom of this page or pick from the other communication options on our dedicated ‘Contact Us‘ section. We will then be in touch with an estimated cost based on your project and site, and once you’ve agreed to work with us, we can arrange a suitable time to visit your site.