Argus Ecology

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All species of bat enjoy full protection under the European Union Habitats Directive, implemented in the UK through the 1994 Habitats Regulations; they are also protected through listing on Schedule 5 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, as amended by the 2000 Countryside and Rights of Way Act and the 2004 Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act.

It is an offence to capture, injure or kill a bat; to disturb a bat in a way which would affect its ability to survive, hibernate, breed and rear young; damage or destroy a roost; disturb a bat at a roost or restrict access to a roost; or have . These are arrestable, criminal offences, with maximum penalties of up to 6 months imprisonment, and fines of up to £5000.00 per bat.

A number of developments may result in offences against bats – the refurbishment or demolition of properties (particularly operations affecting roofs, cavity walls, weatherboarding, soffits and window frames); felling or pruning mature trees; and works which affect structures such as caves, tunnels, ice-houses and rock faces. Licenses for developments affecting a bat roost can be obtained from the relevant statutory agency – Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, or Countryside Council for Wales – but must pass a number of tests, including social and economic need, and maintain the favourable conservation status of the local population.

Current guidance to local planning authorities advises that they should give due weight to the presence of protected species in making decisions on planning applications, and protected species may justify the refusal of planning permission. Recent case law also emphasises the need for local authorities to ‘have regard to’ the requirements of the Habitats Directive. For some developments which might affect foraging bats, such as wind farms, a series of activity surveys may be necessary, even when a roost site is not present.

Argus Ecology have experience of advising on sometimes complex developments affecting bat roosts, taking the process through from collection of survey data, licence application and overseeing development and mitigation works, through to monitoring of the completed scheme. At the other end of the scale, a simple inspection survey and risk assessment may suffice to satisfy the local planning and regulatory authorities.

Timing is very important when considering developments including bats. Emergence surveys of potential roosts can only take place during the optimum flight activity period, between May and the end of August. Risk assessments can take place at any time, although they may conclude that an emergence survey is necessary to determine usage by bats. At least two surveys are normally required, spaced out to reflect variations in activity, and undertaken under suitable climatic conditions. In some cases dawn surveys are preferable, to record bats returning to roost sites.

Activity surveys of wider areas (e.g. for wind farm developments) take place over a wider timescale from April to October, but require a larger number of visits.

In all cases, it is important to ensure that surveys comply with current legal and planning legislation, and provide adequate verification of any species present. Argus Ecology have appropriately licensed and experienced personnel, backed when necessary by a team of trained field assistants for emergence surveys. We record and analyse ultrasonic calls using Petterson Elektronic time-expansion detectors, backed up by Batbox heterodyne detectors. We can carry out endoscopic inspection of crevices, and if necessary employ appropriately licensed climbing surveyors to inspect structures such as trees and bridges.

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