Suitable Features for Roosting Bats
Whether your development is in Wokingham itself, in the nearby areas of Bracknell, Slough or Maidenhead, or out in the countryside, if there is a reasonable likelihood that bats are present, bat surveys are your only option if you want to be granted planning permission. When it comes to what constitutes a ‘reasonable likelihood’, there are several things that you need to consider. For instance, if your development is close to the Emm Brook or any other body of water, you will need a bat survey, as bats commonly forage the large numbers of insects that hover over the water. Bat roosts are often found in older buildings and listed buildings with slate roofs and hanging tiles built before 1914, as bats can squeeze through small gaps and into the warm and dry roof cavities.
As a result of a housing shortage in Wokingham, the local authority has prioritised growing housing stock with a view to generating 10,000 new homes across several major developments. While such a pledge could be taken as an indication that the local council isn’t averse to granting planning permission, planning decisions will be on the condition that developers and homeowners alike comply with the legal obligations towards protected species like bats. Due to the emphasis on the guaranteed safety of bats and other protected species in Wokingham, demonstrating to the planning case officer how you are going to manage the risk your development poses to bats in your planning application will be a crucial factor in determining if you can realistically be granted planning consent.
It is perfectly understandable to view bat surveys as an unexpected or even unnecessary expense. Failing to arrange an assessment when required, however, opens you up to criminal prosecution that can result in severe sanctions. If an individual is found guilty of harming bats or otherwise disturbing their habitats without the intervention of an ecology consultant or a European protected species licence, penalties can vary from a fine to a custodial sentence. Instead, it would be far wiser to plan ahead and ensure the necessary assessments are in place, preventing additional costs and delays later in the planning process.
Nearby Bat Species
A total of 14 out of the 18 species of bat native to the UK are present in the county of Berkshire. Bat species with recent sightings in Wokingham include alcathoe bats (Myotis alcathoe), Brandt’s bats (Myotis brandti), brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus), Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii), common pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and whiskered bats (Myotis mystacinus).
Wokingham, Planning and Bat Protection
Certain laws exist to reverse the dramatic decline in wildlife that we’ve seen across the UK in recent decades. The blame for this can largely be laid on habitat destruction in the pursuit of housebuilding and infrastructure development. It is, however, important to keep in mind that the legislation designed to regulate planning and set parameters around acceptable development work is that it does work in our collective favour by adding a good deal of subjective and objective value to land and property.
Within the borough, Wokingham Borough Council is eager to preserve and enhance the standard of biodiversity. The most recent biodiversity action plan (BAP) makes specific reference to protecting and creating new habitats in grasslands, wetlands and heathlands in the local area, with support from relevant groups, such as the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and Natural England. From small private developments of a homeowner’s property to large developments of wind turbines and office buildings intended to create new jobs, for example, all planning projects in Wokingham must be undertaken with consideration to protected species and the laws that surround them.
PRA, BERS and Further Bat Surveys
Once a prior ecology survey, observations from someone involved in the project or instructions from the local planning authority indicate that bat surveys are required, the first step would be the phase 1 survey known as a preliminary roost assessment (PRA) or bat scoping survey – an internal and external inspection of the development site for signs of bats, such as bat carcasses, droppings, prey remains or features for forming a hibernation roost, maternity roost or other forms of bat roost.
When the likely absence of bats and bat roosts is strong enough in the mind of the bat consultant to confirm that no further surveys are needed, this will be made clear in the bat report. But if bats are present and expected to be disrupted in any way, shape or form by the development plans, it will be necessary to produce a mitigation plan or insist upon a phase 2 survey known as a bat emergence and re-entry survey (BERS), bat activity survey or dusk and dawn bat survey.
A bat emergence survey can only be conducted in the summer months between May and September, and at this point, multiple qualified ecologists will visit the site over several visits at dusk and dawn to record bats at suspected entry and exit points. With all the data collected, the bat surveyor can begin to create a mitigation strategy and display it in the bat survey report. Everything from the bat scoping surveys and bat activity surveys will be outlined at length, and it should then contain sufficient evidence and mitigation measures to secure planning applications from the local authorities.
Instruct Our Team to Assist
The ecology team at Arbtech is the best around, formed from a selection of bat specialists who all possess relevant degrees at bachelor’s and master’s levels. Before being given the green light to conduct a preliminary bat roost assessment and dawn and dusk emergence surveys, each bat ecologist has had to pass our rigorous in-house training programme that exposes them to an array of different sites and situations, giving them pragmatic solutions to every possible eventuality.
In tandem with bat surveys, our team can both identify the need for other protected species surveys such as for great crested newts and carry them out themselves. Their extensive experience also makes them effective in applying for a Natural England bat licence if European protected species licences are strictly demanded before it is possible to initiate the chosen mitigation steps such as the use of bat boxes. All of our ecologists work remotely too, giving our clients full coverage throughout the entirety of the country.
You can request a free quote from our administration team by getting in touch with us online, over the phone, or through our contact page. Any time a bat or bat roost is found – or even if you simply want to rule out any chance of disturbing bats and risking breaches of planning requirements and the law – developers would be advised to speak to us for help with how to move forward. A local expert with an understanding of Wokingham Council can then be assigned to you and a bat survey will be conducted to meet the demands of the local authority and prompt successful planning applications.