Northamptonshire Bat Ecologists that WANT you get your planning permission
You might need a bat survey to get planning permission to develop a site or demolish a building in Northamptonshire.
You may need one if your development is likely to impact Northamptonshire’s bat population. No matter how trivial you may perceive this impact to be, the local authority won’t give you planning consent unless they’re satisfied that you’ve met your legal obligations. A bat survey and report will give your planning Case Officer evidence to support a positive planning decision. If you don’t give them this evidence, they can’t allow your development to move forwards.
You must seek advice as to whether or not you need a bat survey right away. However, the only people who can give you the right answer here are the Planners at your local planning authority.
Why “as soon as possible”?
Because some bat surveys (known as phase 2 bat surveys or bat emergence surveys) can take place at certain times of year when bats are very active. Wait too long to get the advice you need, and you could be left waiting for months. One local example of this is South Northamptonshire’s plans to demolish and old Co-Op to make way for a car park. An initial survey indicated that bats have taken up residence in the shop. But, they’re having to wait months for the crucial bat activity survey that’ll determine how many bats are using the site and allow the bat surveyor to devise suitable mitigation and compensation.
Other groups will also be eager to see that you’re doing everything you can to look after any bats in the course of your development – and long after it has finished. Local groups and residents object to planning applications that may harm wildlife and habitats on a regular basis. A few years ago, a proposal to convert a disused rail tunnel that lies between Charwelton and Upper Catesby into a vehicle testing facility met opposition from a coalition of environmental and wildlife groups. The plans were approved, but objections like these underscore the importance of having a bat report to prove that your scheme is balanced against the needs of Northamptonshire’s bats.
Common features in Northamptonshire that could attract bats
If your development is anywhere near flowing water like the River Nene in Northampton or a large body of standing water like a reservoir or lake, the probability of you encountering bats goes up significantly. As well as offering plenty of food, there’s usually an abundance of natural and man-made features like trees and bridges near water that provide a safe haven.
Bats are also increasingly attracted to using artificial structures as urban centres expand further and further into the countryside. Indeed, the loss of natural roosts means that man-made roosts are necessary for some bat species to survive. With this in mind, if your site has any buildings on it with hanging tiles, slate roofs, vents, chimneys or any other architectural feature that could conceivably crack, you could have a bat problem. Obviously, this means that pretty much any building may well house a bat roost, but a general rule of thumb is that the older and more dilapidated the structure, the greater the likelihood that bats will be present.
However, this doesn’t mean you won’t find bats in the loft of a new-build that was only finished last year!
All the more reason to find out if you need a bat report – sooner rather than later.
Bat-friendly development for Northamptonshire
The new local plan, recently submitted to the government, includes plans for a wide range of developments. These include 18,000 new homes across multiple sites and major regeneration work in Northampton town centre.
That said, the Local Planning Authority won’t let developers or homeowners go through with schemes that are injurious to wildlife. And developers that do press on without planning permission could face criminal charges. All bats are protected by weighty legislation, and hurting bats without permission from LPA and a proper licence can lead to the offender receiving a criminal record. In especially egregious cases, sanctions include an unlimited fine or even a prison sentence.
Averill, J. 2020. Demolition of Co-Op site could be delayed to ‘relocate’ bats. [Online]. Available from: https://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/politics/demolition-co-op-site-could-be-delayed-relocate-bats-3047463(Accessed 4th March 2021)
Macleod, L. 2021. Plans to build 18,000 homes and create 28,500 jobs in Northampton submitted to government. [Online]. Available from: https://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/politics/council/plans-build-18000-homes-and-create-28500-jobs-northampton-submitted-government-3130916 (Accessed 4th March 2021)
Northampton Borough Council. 2020. Northampton Local Plan Part 2 2011 – 2029 Submission Version December 2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.northampton.gov.uk/downloads/file/12589/01-northampton-local-plan-part-2-submission-version (Accessed 4th March 2021)
Rannard, S. 2017. Rail tunnel research facility set for nod. [Online]. Available from: https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/rail-tunnel-research-facility-set-for-nod (Accessed 4th March 2021)