In May 2016, Arbtech first visited the site to conduct a Preliminary Roost Assessment for bats as the clients wanted to carry out a loft conversion and they had seen bats in the loft void. Although planning consent was not required to carry out the work, bat surveys were required to ensure that the law was not broken. All species of bat are fully protected under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) through their inclusion on Schedule 2.
Regulation 41 prohibits:
- Deliberate killing, injuring or capturing of bats
- Deliberate disturbance of bat species as:
a) to impair their ability:
(i) to survive, breed, or reproduce, or to rear or nurture young
(ii) to hibernate or migrate
b) to affect significantly the local distribution or abundance of the species
- Damage or destruction of a breeding site or resting place
Bats are also protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) through their inclusion on Schedule 5. Under this Act, they are additionally protected from:
- Intentional or reckless disturbance (at any level)
- Intentional or reckless obstruction of access to any place of shelter or protection
To convert a loft containing a bat roost would be illegal without a European protected species mitigation licence from Natural England. In order to obtain this, Arbtech carried out two dusk and one dawn bat survey to try to establish roost access points, numbers and species. As is often the way with brown long eared bats, they were not seen to emerge from or –re-enter the roost, and droppings were sent for DNA analysis to confirm species. This species emerges much later than other bat species, and their echolocation is very faint, making them difficult to survey for.
The surveys did identify a common pipistrelle roost in the building which was to be retained. The clients agreed to retain the south west end of the loft as a bat roost using a partition wall, so a licence was applied for to disturb and modify the roost. As part of the licence, bat boxes were erected on trees on site, and the strip of the roof tiles was supervised by a licenced ecologist.
Before work started on site, the loft was inspected and four brown long-eared bats were present in the southwest end of the loft which is being retained as a bat loft. The bats were roosting high up on the ridge and were not easily accessible to be removed. This area of the roof and lining was to remain intact; therefore the bats were left in situ as they were considered to be at negligible risk from the work to the roof, and would suffer a lesser degree of disturbance if left as they are rather than trying to move them.
The north east half of the roof tiles and lining were removed and replaced on the eastern roof pitch, leaving a temporary access gap for the bats at the ridge until a permanent new access point could be added during the second stage of the roof strip. On the final visit, a single bat was present, and a permanent new access point was added around the eaves.
The development will allow continued use of the loft by its colony of brown long eared bats and also allow the client to use the loft as they wished; a successful case of human-bat cohabitation.