Building a Bat-Friendly Swindon
If you are submitting a planning application for a replacement dwelling or conversion in Swindon where bats or bat roosts are proven or suspected to be present, you will first need a bat survey before Swindon Borough Council will grant consent. The decision to go ahead anyway and even so much as disturb bats or their habitats will run the risk of being subjected to criminal prosecution. That said, such an outcome is only applicable if the development is likely to disrupt the local bat population or damage bat habitats.
Any time a developer isn’t 100% sure of whether or not their planning project will have this effect on native bats, the advised first step would be to get in touch with the local planning authority for confirmation or speak to the team at Arbtech. That way, a specialist bat consultant with local knowledge of the area of Swindon and other parts of South West England can be commissioned to conduct and manage the necessary assessments on roosting bats and inform on satisfying the local authorities.
Older buildings are more likely to have lifted or hanging tiles, gaps in the flashing and other degenerative architectural features for bats to squeeze through and use as a suitable location to hibernate over the winter months. Proximity to green spaces like Lawns Park or Seven Fields should also raise suspicion, as tree hollows make an excellent bat roost. Likewise, waterways like the River Ray are worth taking into account, as bats find rivers and brooks attractive due to the abundance of insects to feed on and the hedgerows and other landscape features that aid their navigation via echolocation.
The local plan acknowledges that Swindon’s housing stock needs to grow, but that sustainable development will be prioritised and projects won’t be permitted at the expense of the landscape, environment or wildlife. Opportunities in Swindon for developers and homeowners include the 12,000-home New Eastern Village Scheme that recently received a boost when a large development firm bought into the project. Swindon’s infrastructure network is being reinforced too after the council were awarded £25 million to create a new public open space on what is now Fleming Way.
Unfortunately, however, not all development is met with enthusiasm. For instance, a landowner recently faced backlash from concerned residents regarding the impact on wildlife after they put up fencing alongside a nature reserve. Any concerns that involve the environment and wildlife are understandable, especially if the development is likely to have a material impact on bats or other European protected species. It is only possible to move forward successfully once the worries of residents, special interest groups and the local authority have been addressed accordingly.
Swindon Bat Species
From all the different types of bat found in the UK, species in Swindon include the barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and soprano pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus).
Sufficient Protective Measures
One of many protected species, every bat and bat roost is defended by weighty legislation, and the consequences of breaching obligations to bats without permission such as the utilisation of a European protected species licence will range from unlimited fines to prison sentences. References to the protection of bats can be found in 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.
Although Swindon doesn’t have its own bat group that would otherwise act as a more focused branch of the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), it does have the support of the BCT. It also falls under the jurisdiction of the Wiltshire Bat Group (WBG) which works in conjunction with the Wiltshire Mammal Group. The primary aims of the Wiltshire Bat Group include adhering to national guidelines, championing bat conservation, offering training opportunities, maintaining partnerships with neighbouring bat groups, and promoting the indexing of bat data.
The Bat Survey Process
Either following previous ecology surveys such as preliminary ecological appraisals or as the result of observations of evidence that bats may in fact be on the proposed development site, a bat survey will be the suitable course of action. It will commence with a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) or bat scoping survey to facilitate a thorough inspection of the site by an ecological consultant for indications of bats, such as bat droppings, carcasses, feeding remains or features that could pose high habitat suitability.
A definitive guarantee that no bats are on the site will suffice, meaning a bat report can be created, no further surveys are needed, and the local authority can grant planning permission. Even simply an uncertain outcome can trigger the need for more bat assessments, consisting of a bat emergence and re-entry survey (BERS) or bat activity survey. Over the course of bat emergence surveys, several ecologists will attend the site over multiple periods between May and September at dusk and dawn to monitor suspected entry and exit points. At this point, as well as confirming the locations of bat roosts on the site, data will be recorded in relation to bat species and population numbers.
Immediately after bat scoping surveys and bat activity surveys, a bat report will be put together by the ecological consultant to detail the bat survey process and explain any mitigation measures that have been suggested to enable the project to continue, even with a bat or bat roost present. It will also reference any need for protected species surveys for other European protected species, such as breeding birds and great crested newts, and of course, it will issue a recommendation for planning permission to the corresponding local planning authorities.
Book in an Assessment Today
All of our team are fully knowledgeable about relevant organisations and regulators in connection to the bat survey and planning process, as well as the overlap between the two. With accreditation from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and Natural England, the bat consultants at Arbtech can act as an approved ecological clerk of works (ECoW) to ensure that every preliminary roost assessment and bat emergence survey is conducted to the highest standard.
Before you can submit viable planning applications to the local planning authority, you will need to ensure that all of the steps have been taken to satisfy their strict requirements. Prior to that, you will need a bat survey or other applicable further surveys for European protected species. Fortunately, we provide a free quote to any and all clients in the South West and other parts of England that get in touch. You can do this by calling, emailing, or visiting our contact page.