Birkenhead, Heswall and West Kirby Bat Ecology
Under certain circumstances, you will need a bat survey before one of the local authorities in the Wirral will grant you planning permission. The reasons for this vary, but they have one thing in common – in their judgement, your development will or is likely to disturb bats or their roosts.
Bats are commonplace in the Wirral, and in fact, you will find five species in the beautiful Birkenhead Park alone. Unsurprisingly, protecting bats is high on the agenda of councils and local community groups. The latter are often concerned about bats and other protected species, demonstrated by protests against cutting down 33 trees in a West Kirby cemetery back in 2020, partly caused by the impact the loss of habitat would have had on roosting bats.
Now, there is the question of whether or not you need a bat survey at all. Unfortunately, while there will be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this, every development is different, so it’s impossible to say with certainty before you make an enquiry, where we will be able to talk about your development site in detail. Alternatively, the next best thing to do is get in touch with your local council as soon as possible, avoiding delay and disappointment if you require an assessment that is time-sensitive.
What we can say is that certain features increase the likelihood that bats will be present on or near your site. For example, if you’re planning a development near the River Mersey in Birkenhead, it is sensible to be alert to the possibility of bats, as bats are fond of waterways due to the abundance of gnats and midges that hover above the surface. Similarly, if you are developing in Heswall, you will need to be mindful of the town’s close proximity to green spaces like the Heswall Dales and Cleaver Heath Nature Reserve. Naturally, these wild spaces harbour broad biodiversity, including bats that can roam further than you might think.
Building a Greener Wirral
As for development, there’s plenty of it in progress and lots more planned for the future. Wirral Waters – a development in Birkenhead dockyard – is set to provide 13,500 new homes over the next 25 years, with completion set for 2025. This regeneration project is one of the largest in Europe, and if anything, it proves that, while you need to meet your legal obligations to protected species, planning officers are fully prepared to grant planning consent.
Wirral Council‘s Housing Delivery Action Plan provides further evidence of this positive attitude towards development and indicates a clear commitment to meeting the housing needs of the community. The action plan isn’t shy of admitting to a high degree of environmental regulation due to the number of coastlines, sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), and sites of biological importance (SBI) across the Wirral. However, the plan also says that they have engaged advisors to support the local authorities to drive sustainable development in these regions.
That said, no matter how eager the councils are to support housebuilding, they cannot do so at the expense of protected species like bats. Fortunately, planning case officers make decisions based on policy and evidence. This is why you need a bat survey to support your planning application if there is any possibility that your project will harm the local bat population.
Bat Assessments to Support Planning Permission
Simply put, the planning case officer from the local planning authority needs to defend their decision to grant planning consent, especially where protected species are involved.
In cases where there are no bats, and any habitats are of very poor quality, your bat report alone – as long as it has been completed by a specialist bat surveyor – will usually be enough to secure planning permission. Also known as a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) and a Scoping Survey, the Phase 1 Bat Survey involves a licenced bat surveyor visiting your site at any point in the year to look for bats and examine your site for habitats. In these instances, the report may or may not contain compensatory or mitigation measures that you will need to put in place for your project to continue.
If your bat ecologist finds bats, evidence of bat presence now or at other periods in the year or reasonably substantial habitats, however, the local planning authority will likely ask you for further surveys. The Phase 2 Bat Survey goes by several names, and you might have heard them referred to as a bat emergence and re-entry survey (BERS), bat activity survey or nocturnal bat survey. You can only have one of these between May and September, which is why it is vital to plan ahead and get a bat surveyor involved early.
Highly-Rated Ecological Services
Many people find bat surveys to be an unwelcome expense and inconvenience. Nevertheless, if you choose to go ahead with your development without having a bat survey and disturb a habitat and/or harm even a single bat, the consequences are severe. As well as a criminal record, you could face an unlimited fine and prison sentence. It really isn’t a risk worth taking, particularly as Arbtech has helped thousands of developers solve their bat problems and secure planning permission.
We’ve been operating for many years now, and in that time, we’ve seen pretty much every bat-related planning issue you could think of. So, we know that we can provide the pertinent ecology advice you need to get through planning applications. Not only that, but we trust our effectiveness so much that if we can’t, we guarantee to give you your money back for protected species surveys such as a bat survey without question or quibble.
Comprehensive Bat Advice You Can Trust
Our team of expert bat surveyors are all educated to bachelor’s or master’s degree level. They’ve also passed a demanding in-house training program that exposes them to all manner of different sites, from single dwellings in the countryside to sprawling urban developments. With the necessary licencing from Natural England, they are able to undertake bat surveys, as well as other protected species surveys if other European protected species are identified on your site.
Through the strategic placing of our team, we can ensure an ecologist in all parts of the country, including coverage of the Wirral, where a surveyor will harness an existing understanding of the policies Wirral Council and other local authorities use to make planning determinations. Additionally, a comprehensive knowledge of the area will also mean that they are aware of local interest groups, giving them further insight into factors that could lead to a successful or unsuccessful application for a planning condition.