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Case Study

Oxfordshire Bat Survey – Get Planning or Your £££ Back

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Bat Survey and Report for planning permission in Oxford, Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire

As the habitats in Oxfordshire are so varied, sometimes you’ll need a bat survey to get planning permission from your local authority. All developments are different so, as you’d expect, there are innumerable reasons why this might be the case. However, they all have one thing in common – the scheme is likely to affect Oxfordshire’s bats.

13  of the UK’s 18 bat species reside in Oxfordshire, and the local authorities have a duty to protect them. Much of this protection centres around planning and development, ensuring new schemes large and small keep Oxfordshire’s bats safe.

The local planning authority isn’t the only party who care about how developments affect bats. Environmental groups and even residents routinely ask difficult questions of developers throughout the planning process. Homes England recently faced questions from concerned residents about the Didcot Gateway site. Some had heard that bats had moved into buildings that were set to be demolished. However, Homes England was able to allay these concerns as their bat surveys had found no evidence of bat roosts.

It’s in situations like these that a bat report really shines. It gives you the evidence you need to support your development proposal when faced with questions at committee, or objections from residents or local interest groups. It’ll prove to them that you’ve done what you need to do so that your planning Case Officer has the information they need to grant planning permission.

But do you need a bat survey?

This is a question that only your local planning authority can answer. And if you’re not sure it’s in your interest to find out ASAP.

Why the urgency?

Because phase two bat surveys (also called bat emergence surveys) can only go ahead in the summer. If you’re too late in arranging one, in the worst case you’ll have to wait up to 8 months before a bat ecologist can perform the survey. And, if you’re at the point where you need a phase two bat survey, this delay will likely slow your development considerably by limiting what you can do – lest you disturb the bats or roosts on your site and incur the ire of the law.

Buildings and locations bats find attractive

Any older building showing signs of its age will offer bats plenty of access and egress points. For example, it’s trivially easy for bats to squeeze through gaps made by broken hanging tiles, loose window frames, and cracked bargeboards. If you think that any gaps are “too small”, think again. Bats can get through openings as small as 20mm, so if they’re up towards the roofline, you probably won’t even be able to see them from ground level.

Location matters, too. Bats favour suburban or semi-rural settings thanks to the ready supply of food and natural features like caves and hedgerows that are ideal for roosting and navigation respectively. However, these days you’re just as likely to find bats in the centre of major cities like Oxford; notably near green spaces like the various recreation grounds of the University’s Colleges or close to the River Thames.

Building in Oxfordshire over the next 5-10 years

Whilst looking after wildlife is critical, development is still on the table.

In fact, the LPA has a pretty welcoming attitude towards reasonable development schemes throughout the county. This is partly because the Oxfordshire councils have recognised significant housing challenges.

In Oxford, for example, the average house price is around 16 times the yearly average household income. As well as being a commuter town with a buoyant economy, a shortage of housing stock is also likely to blame for these high house prices. Oxford City Council appear keen to meet this need. And so, as the number of houses grows, the infrastructure to support these houses will naturally follow. This means there are plenty of opportunities for anyone with development ambitions now and in the years to come.

However, whenever a scheme has a material impact on bats, mitigation or compensation will probably be needed. One developer seeking to build 129 dwellings on a field between Cutteslowe and Water Eaton has included habitat-enhancing features in their application and these include bat boxes. You won’t know what you need to put in place if you don’t get a report so this is yet another reason why you need a bat survey when you submit a planning application for a sites where there’s reason to believe there are bats in situ.

So, if you’re in Oxfordshire, need a bat report and want to get planning permission first time, talk to us today. Our promise is simple: if you take our advice and don’t get a planing consent – you get your money back.

Sources:

Oxford City Council. N.D. Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2018-2021. [Online]. Available from: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/downloads/file/4521/housing_and_homelessness_strategy_2018-21 (Accessed 4th March 2021)

Oxfordshire Bat Group. N.D. Oxfordshire Bats. [Online]. Available from: https://www.oxfordshirebats.org/oxfordshire-bats.php (Accessed 4th March 2021)

Oxfordshire County Council. N.D. Biodiversity and planning. [Online]. Available from: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/countryside/natural-environment/environmental-policy-and-planning/biodiversity-and-planning  (Accessed 4th March 2021)

Walker, W. 2020. Plans for 100 new homes between Oxford’s Cutteslowe and Water Eaton revealed. [Online]. Available from: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18957083.new-homes-development-north-oxford-revealed-first-time/ (Accessed 4th March 2021)

Whittaker, R. 2020. Homes England update on multi-million pound Didcot Gateway. [Online]. Available from: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18842451.homes-england-update-multi-million-pound-didcot-gateway/ (Accessed 4th March 2021)

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