West Sussex’s Bat-Friendly Environment
A wildlife staple across West Sussex, bats are present to such an extent that all of the UK’s 18 bat species reside in the county. Although relatively common compared to other parts of the country, protections over bats remain the same nationwide, with specific pieces of legislation raising legal implications for planning projects if bats are present on the development site.
The South East county of West Sussex has an abundance of opportunities for development, including nine strategic sites being considered in the upcoming Horsham local plan alone. Brighton and Hove City Council have also put a housing demand action plan in place to support the delivery of new homes to combat the spiralling cost of property and rent in the city.
Such an emphasis on development emerges as excellent news for development companies and investors, as well as homeowners, who will likely benefit from this forward-thinking attitude to planning. That said, the chances of a planning officer granting planning consent for a scheme that actively harms the local bat population are slim to none.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to get away from the fact that having bats on your site will likely disrupt your scheme to a greater or lesser degree. For example, a developer in Portsmouth who sought to demolish an old primary school experienced this when the project was paused after bat droppings and bats themselves were spotted on the site.
If bats are identified, however, it isn’t necessarily game over; measures can be initiated to mitigate for the loss of habitat and avoid disturbing bat roosts. For instance, development works at Decoy Farm near Worthing were underway to care for the variety of protected species living on the site, and they included measures to safeguard foraging and commuting bats.
For this to work, a detailed bat report is needed, as without it, the local authority cannot be confident that you have met your legal obligations to the local bat population, and you will be unable to obtain a successful planning application. In order to receive an ecology report, you will first need a bat survey to be undertaken by one of our West Sussex bat surveyors.
Bats in Connection to Your Development
While we can’t say whether you need a bat survey or not, we can say that certain features increase the likelihood of bats roosting on your site or using it for hunting and foraging. As far as buildings are concerned, bats like to squeeze into spaces that are warm and dry. A classic example of this would be bats using gaps in slate roofs to get into and then roost in loft spaces.
Seaside towns like Brighton and Worthing typically possess features such as these, with their rows of hundred-plus-year-old terraces, and the age indicating varying quality and a strong likelihood of gaps in the slate common, making them into an attractive proposition for local bats. Various bat species also roost in natural features like the hollows of large trees, so as the quantity of trees increases, so too does the possibility that bats are present.
Trees are a particular problem further inland amongst the rural towns and villages that dot the West Sussex countryside. Schemes could also entertain a mixture of both trees and buildings, particularly in suburban areas of towns like Crawley because you are likely to encounter a combination of bat-friendly manmade and natural features.
For example, if you were looking to develop a site near the Horn Brook in Horsham, you would be wise to consider bats, as the area is rich in bat-friendly habitats, and because the water attracts insects that bats readily feed on, there are plenty of hedgerows to aid navigation and numerous buildings that likely contain features suitable for roosting.
Assessments on Roosting and Commuting Bats
Developers can book bat surveys following direction from the local council or based on observations made regarding the site or buildings within it. A bat survey can also be prompted following a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) – a form of baseline ecology survey that identifies all valuable animals and plants present. From a PEA, ecological consultants can recommend further ecological services, such as bat surveys if they suspect a presence of bats, or assessments on great crested newts or badgers, for example, if they are found.
Two stages make up the bat survey process, starting with a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA). Also referred to as a scoping survey, a PRA begins with the ecologist collecting existing information online via a desk study before conducting a site visit to search for indications of bats. Evidence could include bat droppings, feeding remains, carcasses, bat roosts or features on the site that could be used as a bat roost either now or in the future. If the ecological consultant is sufficiently happy that no bats are present, a bat report will be created, supporting an application of planning permission to the local planning authority.
Confirmed or even suspected presence of bats, however, will lead to the need for a stage two bat survey known as a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS). Also known as bat emergence surveys, bat activity surveys, nocturnal bat surveys or dusk and dawn surveys, a BERS requires multiple bat ecologists to visit the site over several visits during the optimal time of the summer months between May and September. During bat activity surveys, specialist equipment such as bat detectors will be used to obtain data regarding population numbers, bat species, and entry and exit points.
Immediately after the necessary bat survey work, the ecological consultants managing the assessment as part of the planning process will create a bat report. Inside of it will be all data from the desk study and site visit, confirmation of whether or not there is a presence of bats, recommendations for further surveys such as for other identified protected species, and mitigation measures to allow the development to continue such as the introduction of bat boxes. Providing all of the necessary bat surveys have been conducted, the ecological surveyor will advise that the planning department of the local authority pass the planning application.
Meet Bat Survey Requirements on Your Development Site
The ecologists within our team possess the qualifications and licensing to undertake bat surveys on your development site. Each ecological surveyor has a full understanding of the planning process, helping with gaining mitigation licences from Natural England / Natural Resources Wales and putting forward planning applications to the local planning authority with the sufficient level of detail.
For every bat survey, West Sussex coverage extends to all areas, as well as to external locations, including in East Sussex and other parts of South East England. Between a Preliminary Roost Assessment, bat activity survey or an ecological survey on a protected species, our team is equipped with the knowledge and experience you need.
Speak to our team using the number above, on our quick quote form or through our contact page, and one of our administrators will be able to take down your details and provide you with a free quote. If you are happy to progress, let us know and we can decide on a desirable date to attend your site for a bat survey, remove any obstacles preventing you from moving forwards, and get you planning permission.