Surrey’s Potential to Support Roosting Bats
From rural settings like the grand halls of Polesden Lacey near Dorking to commuter towns like Woking and Waverly, roosting bats are all over the county of Surrey. A planning application for a development project will be impacted by the interests of the local bat population, as the planning case officer will be directed to consider all protected species such as bats. In order to ensure that the data needed from the development site has been retrieved, certain surveys may be required, with bat survey work containing all of the elements pertinent to the local council and the planning process.
Certain potential roosting features are attractive to bats. Looking specifically at Surrey, a development site near any of the rivers and streams that crisscross the Tandridge district is appetising to bats, particularly as the natural environment waterways draw large insect numbers as a food source. That said, a bat roosting place could be found in almost any location, even if it isn’t adjacent to water. Urban centres play host to roosting bats, such as towns like Reigate that feature golf courses, commons and green spaces. In fact, an application for planning consent at a crematorium in Reigate suffered amendments following a consultation to include low-level lighting and reduce the impact the building has on bats.
Like much of the UK, Surrey currently faces a housing shortage, no doubt worsened by its proximity to the capital and the knock-on effect this has on house prices and the cost of living. Surrey is uniquely green, but while this is beneficial to local wildlife, it makes development more difficult. For instance, 94% of the land in Tandridge is classed as greenbelt, and it has led to estimations of a serious shortfall involving 200 more families than there are properties by 2041. Likewise, the rapidly rising population in Elmbridge isn’t being met with an adequate supply of housing, leaving a constant argument between local residents who want to protect the green belt and the local authority that wants to accommodate necessary development within existing urban areas.
Some local authorities throughout Surrey are set to see their planning powers limited for failing to meet the government’s housing delivery test, with Epson and Ewell producing just 34% of the homes the central government estimated were needed to meet demand. Despite the failings of local councils, both minor and major developments are encouraged, with Surrey Heath identified by a development firm as one of five areas that are primed for investment and construction based on a combination of affordability, amenities and housing demand. Elsewhere, a large build-to-rent scheme in Mole Valley that includes 214 dwellings is on the way.
Native Bat Species
From exercises designed to identify species of bat in Surrey, the most common results included barbastelle bats (Barbastella barbastellus), Bechstein’s bats (Myotis bechsteinii), brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus), greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros) and various types of pipistrelle bats.
Protection Through Legislation and Surrey Bat Group
Even though the need for housing and infrastructure is growing at lightning speed, the local authorities cannot permit development at the expense of the local bat population. Developers have a legal obligation towards protected species within urban and rural communities, as stated under the guidance of expert organisations such as the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), Natural England, and within pieces of relevant legislation such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, and even parts of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
As a result of the protective parameters surrounding roosting bats, commuting bats and hibernating bats as a material consideration in planning, if bats are discovered either before or during development, you need a plan to manage them correctly. By aligning your proposed works with the survey effort of a qualified, trained and licenced ecologist, you can ensure that the necessary bat mitigation is in place to protect native bats, increase the likelihood of successful planning applications, and avoid errors that would technically be classed as a criminal offence in the eyes of the law.
Bat Survey Techniques
Inspections for bat ecology come in two stages – phase 1 bat surveys best known as a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) and phase 2 bat surveys best known as a bat emergence and re-entry survey (BERS). Otherwise labelled a scoping bat survey, preliminary roost assessments act as a form of ecological impact assessment or preliminary ecological appraisal that applies solely to bats and other protected species that roost. Over the course of a PRA, a licenced bat surveyor will visit the site of a proposed development to analyse man-made structures, natural structures such as old trees and hedges and all other parts of the site to find bats or – as the ideal outcome of the assessment – confirm the absence of bats.
During the inspection of roof tiles, tree lines, loft voids and other structures for signs of bats such as bat droppings, prey remains and dead bats, the professional ecologist will do everything possible to rule out bat occupancy. A development site with no bats or bat roosts present will be rewarded with confirmation of this or assurances that the development plans won’t affect bats in the bat report, leaving no reason to avoid granting planning permission. Any appropriate mitigation measures or compensatory steps that are required will be explained at length, such as the creation of bat boxes or moves to guarantee that the development doesn’t obstruct access for bats inhabiting the site.
Alternatively, if bat roosts or bats are present, it is highly likely that bat emergence and re-entry surveys (BERS) will be triggered. Also known as dusk entry and dawn re-entry surveys or bat activity surveys, the bat emergence survey is designed to monitor commuting corridors in a development proposal with high potential for bat habitat. Often conducted by several experienced ecologists multiple times at the optimal time between May and September using specialist equipment, bat emergence surveys identify entry and exit locations for bats present on the site. A BERS will also confirm the bat species on the site by recording the unique bat calls, removing any need for DNA analysis. The bat report will then contain everything the local planning authority requests to pass applications for planning consent.
Speak to Our Team About Your Project
For years, Arbtech has delivered bat survey services up and down the country, enabling them to undertake surveys, provide expert advice, work closely with a broad range of clients, and secure planning permission in even the most complicated of planning projects. Whenever a bat or bat roost is identified on a development site or one of the many species of bats native to the UK is under threat that the project could disturb bats, we can support roosting bats with bat surveys and the necessary bat mitigation.
Under specific circumstances, you may need a European protected species licence, and if you do, our bat ecologists can even step in to assist with bat mitigation class licence applications to Natural England. Beyond offering help with EPSL licences and conducting PRAs or dusk emergence surveys, our team is capable of conducting additional ecology surveys such as hibernation surveys or undertaking additional protected species surveys, such as for great crested newts or water voles.
If you want your bat survey to be managed by a local specialist in the Southern England area and contain all of the expert advice you need to gain planning permission, choose Arbtech for the ecology surveys you need by calling, emailing, filling out an online quote form or visiting our contact page. At this point, our friendly team will determine the required bat surveys, choose a suitable date one night or day to book the assessment, price up a no-obligation quote based on the specifications of your site, recommend further surveys and ecology services, help with obtaining a bat licence, and assist in providing further environmental management to prompt successful results in the planning process.