In Britain, all bat species and their roosts are protected by law. It is a criminal offence to deliberately harm, capture, kill or disturb a bat or its resting place. The laws which are in place ensure that the bat population in the UK are protected from decline. Now, a new British Standard is set to outline guidance for the surveying of trees and woodland for bats.

Sadly, bat populations in the UK have declined considerably over the last century. Bats are under threat from building and development work that affects roosts and loss of habitat amongst other things. The decrease in bat numbers is, in part, as a result of the ever-changing countryside. Natural habitats, such as hedgerows, woodlands and ponds have been slowly declining over time.

It is important that new suitable habitats are created whilst existing habitats are managed and enhanced to help bats recover and survive. The new British Standard BS8596 will cover the surveying of trees and woodland for bats and is expected to come into effect next year. Arborist Patrick Stilemand, who is currently preparing the document, has told the Arboricultural Association conference that there is a lot of piecemeal guidance coming from different organisations but no one of them is definitive.

The new document looks to bring all of these together into one single document that will carry greater weight but with no more difficulty to impose. The new BS8596 will outline:

• It which circumstances a bat survey should be carried out

• When a bat survey should lead to site assessment by an expert

• What should be done in ‘emergencies’, including trees with a high risk of failure

• The records which should be kept in each case Stilemand continued to explain at the conference that very little survey work would likely be required where the trees concerned have very few features likely to provide bat roosts. The new British Standard BS8596 will become available for consultation next spring. The definitive version will be published in the Autumn.