Do you need a Bat Survey for a planning application in London in 2021?
Bat Survey London: London is densely populated and despite the pandemic of the last year or so, with the resulting increase in home working, there’s no signs of the growth of the capital slowing down in either economic prosperity, home and property values, and population.
For example, the population of London is only 12.5% of the UK as a whole, but the city generates almost a quarter of total GDP. Likewise, in 2020 the average price of a home in the capital rose above the £600,000 mark for the first time in history. Finally, the present population of greater London is over 9 million people. By 2050 that is predicted to grow by another 2 million.
What this means, is that what is already a hive of development activity is likely to get even busier. Pressure will mount on the 32 boroughs of London to consent to more and more development, and as high streets feel the double hammer of the lockdown and a mass move to online shopping, perhaps our town and city centres will become even more densely populated as large stores and offices that used to be able to command enormous rents slowly, one by one, get converted into dwellings for the extra 70,000 people annually that will come to call London their home.
Clearly, there is a trade off with biodiversity anytime outside spaces (natural habitats) and existing, imperfect structures (with architectural defects and features that provide for suitable bat roosting habitat) are sacrificed for re development. In short, all of this new construction, conversion and renovation activity risks a loss of bat roosting habitat on a wholesale scale.
However, with the Mayor of London committing heavily to e.g. tree planting, and improvements to green infrastructure and opens spaces, there will be yet more pressure to ensure that consented development activity (to say nothing of permitted development) is protective or even additive to local biodiversity.
This is compounded by the various borough’s commitments in their own biodiversity action plans. And, of course, these relatively local considerations are given teeth the forthcoming Environment Bill enshrining in law the mandatory biodiversity net gain of 10% across the board.
Then, of course, there are volunteer interest groups that have some influence over planning applications, and even policy. London Bat Group, for example, sells local biological records data to consultants (like Arbtech) to integrate into London bat surveys and preliminary roost assessment reports, to inform decisions about proximate habitat use and quality using known sightings of roosting bats, various bat species, and identified bat roosts as a proxy.
The more data these organisations collect over time, the better the resolution of the spread of roosting bats and bat roosts throughout London is. This of course means that with each passing year, bat surveys are more likely to lead to resistance to development and or licenced mitigation works – from minor changes such as bat boxes to significant alterations that could impact a development project – for habitat loss.
So, massive pressure to develop, convert and restore… coming up against massive pressure to avoid, mitigate and even enhance existing habitats. What’s the answer?
Bats and Planning Permission in London
Well, it certainly isn’t to ignore the issue. Bellway Homes was criminally prosecuted and fined £600k in January 2021 for the destruction of a bat roost on a development site in Greenwich. And they already had a planning consent. If you’re not even at that stage yet, then the rest of this article contains vital information if you have been asked by your local planning authority (LPA) to get a bat survey in London.
London’s #1 Bat Surveyors – Hundreds of reviews can’t be wrong!
Of course, all eight species of 17 that breed in the UK are legally protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as are their bat roosts from disturbance and destruction (roost), harm and killing (animals). This doesn’t mean that, because your development will affect bats, you will inevitably be obstructed from achieving your development ambitions; it just means that – in line with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 – there’s a protocol to follow.
Here’s what that looks like.
Step one is to get a baseline report done. This first stage takes the form of a preliminary roost assessment (often called a PRA, phase one or scoping bat survey). This is a physical survey and desk study exercise, and if other European protected species are found at this point, the surveyor will suggest a potentially wide variety of protected species surveys or ecological services.
The desk study looks at the proximate landscape and habitat connectivity, as well as taking in data from DEFRA and Natural England, and London Bat Group.
The goal is to provide effective habitat management and critically assess the impact on a potential roost’s destruction, in terms of how it would disperse local bat populations within the subject site to the surrounding land, as well as historic (licenced) roost destructions that maybe in turn, dispersed their own bat population to within the subject development site.
In truth, this rarely (but certainly not never) turns up surprise information that might significantly affect the sensitivity of what you’re planning to do.
The physical survey is very simple, too. There’s an assessment of three criteria that could trigger bat emergence surveys (often called ‘nocturnal’ or ‘dusk and dawn’ surveys, and formally known as bat emergence and re-entry surveys (BERS)) or allow your planning application to progress unhindered.
In the majority of cases, bat emergence surveys are not recommended. The physical element of your initial bat survey seeks to assess the following: bats; physical evidence of bat activity (such as feeding remains); and features on the exterior of the buildings that could be habitat, or very actually are habitat. A BERS assessment takes place at dusk or dawn and requires the ecologist to monitor likely entry and exit points using expert observance and specialist equipment such as bat detectors to monitor bat activity and determine present bat species on the site.
You can find out much more about preliminary bat surveys in a 15-minute video that explains literally, literally everything there is to know about the survey so you can pass go and collect your two hundred dollars here.
What a bat survey in London costs, and why choose Arbtech?
A PRA bat survey in London will cost you from £389+VAT. That’s a generalisation. We have done bat surveys on the houses of Parliament. Big building
It was a lot more than four hundred pounds. Equally, sometimes we do multiple surveys for architects and planning agents in and around London – sometimes we can visit several properties in a day and that reduces the per unit cost significantly.
If you fill out the box at the top of this screen, we’ll get in touch same day and have a one-page fees sheet over to you. A signature is all we need (which you can scan or take a photo on your phone), and we’ll jump right on it. Rapid and hassle-free is our mantra here at Arbtech.
In terms of how we deliver our work, we’ve tried to build a company that we’d actually like to do business with. Arbtech’s bat ecologists are qualified, experienced, knowledgeable of the latest news from the ecology industry, and take complete ownership of your ecological site issues by carrying out quality standard ecology surveys, including bat surveys, protected species surveys and other ecological services. They are then in a suitable position to support roosting of inhabiting and foraging bats in the area, provide expert recommendations, and if the bats need to be relocated, develop effective mitigation measures such as moving them away from the development site or installing bat boxes so they are out of harm’s way.
Regardless of the most suitable method, our ecologists work until any and all potential problems identified during a bat scoping survey are resolved to the fullest standard. For example, the USPs of our ecological consultancy are:
Speed: Instant quotes, rapid surveys, reports in days not weeks.
The Arbtech Guarantee: Follow our advice from bat surveys and other legally protected species surveys, and we guarantee that you get planning from the corresponding local authority — or your money back.
It’s also a worth brief mention that the primary reason we can offer fixed, all-inclusive fees with no hidden extras (mileage, etc) whether you’re in Exeter or Edinburgh is because we have around 30 staff; a HQ in Chester where the administrative machine is, and then 20 or so consultants in strategic locations around the UK. Our ecology team are not subcontractors.
They are all full-time, direct employees and have lived and worked local to you for their entire careers. This allows us to leverage the benefit of local knowledge of the various London boroughs and how they assess planning applications and habitat management, as well as the fact our works and consultants are known quantities to the people who will be looking at your planning application.
You can find us here:
Arbtech Bat Surveys,
New Broad Street House,
New Broad Street,
London’s most trusted ecological consultancy
Bat surveys in the London boroughs: bat survey in Wandsworth, Richmond, Kingston, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Ealing, Waltham Forest, Southwark, Haringey, Hackney, Camden, Brent, Barnet, Harrow, Enfield, Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Merton, Lambeth, Sutton, Barkley, Havering, Bexley, Redbridge and Newham.