Somerset Developers! Have you been told by your local planning authority that you need a bat survey to remove a planning objection?
The county of Somerset is located in the southwest of England and is one of the largest English counties. With strong links to agriculture and the home of Glastonbury and Cheddar Cheese, Somerset possesses a multitude of environments including beaches, green countryside, lakes, woodlands and beyond.
Mascalls Wood, Nutcombe Bottom and Blackdown Hills are just a few of the woodland and outdoor spaces in Somerset where you can enjoy walks and days out. As well as holding important local and cultural heritage, these are among the increasingly fewer and precious places for us all to re-connect with nature.
Woodlands, and how they support Somerset’s biodiversity
Woodlands are also an indispensable habitat for much of our native British wildlife, varying from flowers, insects, birds and bats.
The county is lucky enough to be host to 16 of the 17 breeding species of bat in the UK, even in more built-up environments like Bristol and Bath, in North Somerset. Bat species alone in the area make up approximately one third of all the mammal species across the UK.
The most common species of bat in Somerset are the Pipistrelle, Brown Long-Eared Bat and the Daubenton’s Bat. The most uncommon are the Lesser Horseshoe Bat, Grey Long-Eared Bat and Natterer’s Bat.
Conservation projects in the south west
Conservation sites like Mells Valley, is a specially designated area of conservation for bats. The characteristics of the land consist of humid grassland, improved grassland and broad-leaved deciduous woodland – all of which are a perfect habitat for bats to thrive and a great food source for them.
The valley in Southern England is selected on the basis of its exceptional breeding population of Greater Horseshoe Bat. The site is home to the maternity roost linked with the population compromising of roughly 12% of the UK’s Greater Horseshoe Bat population. The site is also a bat hotspot for hibernation.
What does all this mean for your planning application?
Bat habitats aren’t just limited to woodland areas. The many agricultural spaces, with barns and outhouses also offer an ideal roosting environment.
All UK bat species are protected by law because their numbers have declined so dramatically. Their dwindling numbers are due to the loss of their feeding habitats and flight lines, a decrease of insects to feed on and developments impacting roosts.
Bats are becoming more dependant on urban habitats – you may even find one living in your loft space or roof cavity.
The Somerset Bat Group was formed in 1985 and helps protect bats in the county of Somerset. They also conduct the National Bat Monitoring Program ran by the Bat Conservation Trust and carry out regular field surveys. These surveys include the British Bat Survey that takes place between July and August and the National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) Waterway Survey.
If you have a project in Somerset requiting planning permission, then you will need to employ an ecologist to carry out a survey and offer you guidance. Somerset County Council require bat assessments for you to be able to carry out any building or renovation work you have planned.
Looking for bats in Somerset: what will your ecologist actually do?
Your first port of call would be a Preliminary Roost Assessment also known as a phase one survey. This kind of survey entails an ecologist looking for indications of bat presence.
These signs include droppings (mouse-like in shape and colour but crumble under pressure), remains of bat prey, deep holes or cavities in trees or wall voids and small gaps on roofs for them to crawl into.
If an ecologist uncovers this evidence, a further survey will be required to confirm if there is a roost. As bats are livelier at dusk or dawn it is highly unlikely you will find one in the day when the phase one survey is carried out.
The phase two or Bat Emergence Survey is conducted at dusk or dawn. Here, the ecologist will conduct the survey using professional equipment such as thermal imaging and infra-red cameras and echolocation sound kit.
This is a direct observation of the suspected roost site in question (whether that is a roof void, structural feature or tree cavity) where your ecologist will monitor any bats coming and going. Once both surveys have been carried out, you will receive a report. A copy of this will need to be submitted your local council, and offer mitigation advice so that your project can move forward.
Somerset bat group and further information
If you’re interested in learning more about the bat populations in Somerset and getting involved in monitoring, you could join the Somerset Bat Group on Facebook. Alternatively, you could contact our senior ecological consultant, Jonathan Stuttard, based in Bristol. Alternatively, you could speak to Arbtech ecological surveyor, Dr James Fielding. Jonathan m and James work throughout the south west and will be happy to offer you their expert advice.
The next steps: get in touch with Arbtech
If you need a bat survey in Somerset to get your project moving forward, then simply request a quote by giving us a call or filling out the form on this page. We’ve done hundreds of projects in Somerset, so we are ready to help.