Habitat Suitability for Oxfordshire Bats
As the habitats in Oxfordshire are so varied, it is to be expected that you may need to take European-protected species such as bats into consideration before you will realistically be able to obtain planning permission from your local authority. While all of Oxfordshire’s developments are different for a number of reasons, each planning project shares the factor that they are likely to affect the local bat population.
Any older building showing signs of its age will offer bats plenty of access and egress points. For example, it is trivially easy for bats to squeeze through gaps made by broken hanging tiles, loose window frames and cracked bargeboards, and if you think that any gaps are too small, think again; bats can get through openings as small as 20mm, so if they are up towards the roofline, you probably won’t even be able to see them from ground level.
The location also plays a role in a bat’s decision of whether or not to use a building as a roost location, with suburban or semi-rural settings appearing as favourable due to the ready supply of food and natural features like caves and hedgerows that are ideal for roosting and navigation respectively. That said, you are just as likely to find bats in the centre of major cities like Oxford, especially near green spaces like the various recreation grounds of the university or close to the River Thames.
Despite concerns over bats and other protected species, each local authority in Oxfordshire has a welcoming attitude towards reasonable development schemes. The average house price in the city of Oxford is around 16 times the yearly average household income, not helped by a shortage of housing stock. Oxford City Council have shown an intention to mitigate, supporting growth in the number of residential properties and allowing developers to stage planning projects in the area.
Whenever a scheme has a material impact on bats, mitigation or compensation measures will probably be needed, with a recent example seeing a developer integrating habitat-enhancing features such as bat boxes into building 129 dwellings on a field between Cutteslowe and Water Eaton. In terms of your development, you may be unaware of the impact, and only a bat survey will confirm or deny the presence of bats before offering steps to satisfy the local authorities.
Local Bats and Roost Sites
13 of the 18 total bat species that are native to the UK are situated in Oxfordshire, including the barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii), Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii), Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), Nathusius’s pipistrelle (pipistrellus nathusii), Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri), noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus), soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus).
Nearby Bat Safety Measures
Much of the protection centres around planning and development, ensuring new schemes keep Oxfordshire’s bats safe. The local planning authority isn’t the only party that cares about how developments affect bats. Environmental groups, the local bat group – in the case of Oxfordshire, the Oxfordshire Bat Group (OBG) – and even residents routinely ask difficult questions of developers throughout the planning process.
For instance, once it became public knowledge that buildings in Didcot were set to be demolished, Homes England faced questions from concerned residents that had heard of bats occupying the buildings. Prior bat surveys, however, already confirmed that no bats or bat roosts were present following a thorough inspection of the area, as required ever since bats were listed as a protected species within the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Circumstances such as these demonstrate the necessity for a bat survey and the accompanying bat report. Once you’ve been able to retrieve the evidence you need to support your development proposal, you can refer back to it any time you are faced with questions or objections from residents or local interest groups. It’ll prove to them that you’ve done what you need to do so that your planning case officer has the information they need to grant planning permission.
Structured Inspection for Bats
Between observations made by yourself or someone else on your site that could indicate the presence of bats or following previous ecological surveys such as a preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) or ecological impact assessment (EcIA), a bat survey will be the necessary next step. A Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) is the first stage in the bat surveying process and consists of an ecological consultant visiting the development site to inspect for signs of bats, such as bat carcasses, droppings, remains of prey or features that could be used as a potential roost, either now or in the future.
At any point that the bat surveys indicate the presence of bats, the ecological surveyor with their extensive experience will question if the bats could disturb or be disturbed by the proposed development. If the answer is yes, the next step will be the requirement for a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS). Also known as bat activity surveys, a BERS consists of multiple ecologists attending the development site a handful of times at dusk and dawn to determine entry and exit points, and record bat calls to gauge present bat species and population numbers.
Upon completion of both bat surveys, the ecologist will assemble a bat report to detail their findings. It will also include any mitigation or compensation measures that will guarantee the safety of the bats, allow the development to move forwards as planned, and support the developer’s planning application. Due to the comprehensive nature of a bat survey report, the local planning authority should have no reason to maintain any concern over the project and possess everything they need to make planning decisions.
Plan Your Bat Survey Now
Among our ecology team is the extensive experience, collection of knowledge and standard of service you need to satisfy the conditions of your local authority. During a preliminary ecological appraisal or ecological impact assessment on your Oxfordshire development site, we can use the results to trigger other necessary surveys, such as bat surveys or other protected species surveys, or if you are already aware that bats or bat roosts are present, we can jump ahead to bat scoping surveys or bat activity surveys as required.
To receive a free quote, simply call us over the phone, fill out our quote form online, or refer to our contact page. One of our team will then use the unique details of your project and site to send you your quote within a few short hours, and from there, you can decide whether or not you’d like to move forwards with us. If you agree, we can visit your site to conduct the bat surveys you need and begin to help you with your planning application.