Out in the Wilds of Wiltshire
In the South West of England, you will find the landlocked county of Wiltshire. It is predominantly rural, characterised by high downwind and wide valleys, and it rests on chalk, making for an abundance of porous limestone. Best known for its ham, it is also home to historic monuments like Stonehenge, and in fact, the county of Wiltshire has more prehistoric sites than any other county in all of England.
As soon as developers consider carrying out any form of home renovations, landscaping or demolishing any buildings within Wiltshire, they should first gauge whether they may need the expertise and insight of a professional ecologist. Any number of European protected species could be present on the site, but the main concern would be the likelihood of roosting bats and active bat roosts, calling for bat surveys to be undertaken before the local planning authorities will even consider granting planning permission.
The Rarest of Wiltshire Bats
An estimated 13 out of the 17 breeding species of bat in the UK consider Wiltshire as their home, and a single record suggests that Geoffroy’s bat may be present somewhere on the Western border. The Bechstein’s bat is one of the rarest species in Britain, and it resides in Wiltshire, emerging at dusk and moving along hedgerows and roads to navigate through feeding locations near their roosts. By flying beneath tree canopies, insects can be snatched from the branches and leaves of the Wiltshire woodland, parkland and gardens for sustenance.
Another breed in Wiltshire is the Natterer’s bat – a medium-sized species with a pink face and slightly curved, long ears. They can squeeze into tight spaces such as the small tree rot holes in deciduous woodland and forage in foliage, farmland and sheltered water. Barbastelle bats also feature in Wiltshire, with various sightings despite being an elusive and rare breed. You will often find the barbastelle bat in woodland, easy to distinguish based on their flat face, dark fur, white tips and pug-like features.
Species of bat like the barbastelle bat are usually found in Southern and Central England and Wales. Unfortunately, the barbastelle bat is to such an extent of rarity that they are listed as near threatened globally on the IUNC Red List. Other bat species native to Wiltshire include the 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).
Defending Local Bats
Safeguarding measures for wildlife in the county fall under the jurisdiction of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT), and more focused departments include the Wiltshire Mammal Group and the Wiltshire Bat Group (WBG). The combination of all three does a lot of great work to support wildlife on sites that have rare species and habitats, broadleaved wood pastures and woodland and chalk streams, rivers and grassland. The Savernake Forest – part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and North Wessex Downs – is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the edge of Malborough and is found to support the barbastelle bat.
All bat species within the UK are protected by law under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, with references in other legislation, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The level of protection means that if you disturb, harm or kill a bat, or destroy their roosting habitat – whether it’s in a tree or a roof space, for example – you can face prosecution, with penalties ranging from a fine to the genuine possibility of prison sentences.
Even though it is understandably alarming to discover the repercussions of endangering bats during a planned development, the consequences are actually quite easy to avoid by referring to Arbtech‘s ecological consultancy for bat surveys and other applicable ecological services. Our understanding of the planning process, the planning application process and the correlation with ecological features makes us perfectly suited for conducting a bat survey and any further surveys you may need to secure planning.
Assessments on Roosting Bats
Certain ecological services can prompt the need for a bat survey, starting with a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) or bat scoping survey. A bat consultant will visit the site at any time of the year to search for evidence of bats across all natural and man-made features. Such evidence would generally include bat droppings, carcasses, prey remains or even locations that could be deemed appropriate for bat roosts. It will be the intention of the ecologist to confirm a lack of bat occupancy, but if any doubts remain, it is likely that further surveys on the development site will be needed.
Rather than a single assessment, the secondary bat survey known as a bat emergence and re-entry survey (BERS) or bat activity survey will involve multiple visits to the site from several ecological consultants. Bat activity surveys can only be conducted at certain times between the months of May and September, and during this time, bat detectors and infrared cameras will be used to record the unique bat echolocation calls and bat activity at suspected entry and exit points to confirm roosting locations, quantify populations, and determine species present.
From the accumulated information, everything should be available for the ecological surveyor to assemble a comprehensive bat report and pass it on to the local planning authorities as part of the application for planning consent. In addition, if any extra data is required to support the planning application and bolster the bat survey report, the ecologist can recommend any other protected species surveys such as for great crested newts or water voles, or advise on other ecological services involving DNA analysis or intervention as an ecological clerk of works (ECoW).
Reach Out to Our Team Now
The knowledge and experience across our team contribute to our reputation as the UK’s top ecological consultancy. Not only can we conduct bat scoping surveys and bat activity surveys as required, but we can also step in on protected species licence applications to Natural England, ensuring that all stages of the planning process and the journey towards obtaining planning consent are suitably addressed.
Between our coverage across the entirety of the country and a company structure that enables our bat consultants to work remotely, Arbtech can cater to clients in any area in Wiltshire, South West England and beyond. Request a free quote for a bat survey on your development site by emailing us, calling us or visiting our contact page, and we can then choose a date to conduct the bat surveys you need and take the first step in meeting the stringent requirements of your local planning authorities.