Understanding bat surveys and UK protection laws

Since landscape architecture revolves around the planning and design of outdoor environments, it goes without saying that often, natural conditions and creatures need to be taken into account. In some areas there may be bats, and this will have an effect on the subsequent planning and the way the particular project will be realized. For this reason, bat surveys need to be carried out.

A specialist landscape architecture firm will need to be consulted for this. Such a firm will be able to investigate the presence of bats in an area, and when this is done at the earliest possible phase of a development, the developer will be better able to resolve the issue.

Ideally developers should consult the landscape architecture firm before acquiring a site, or while they are in the process of evaluating different sites.

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Bats are quite common, and you may be amazed to learn that there are sixteen different species of bats in the UK. Moreover, UK law protects bats and their roosts. So, if you are going to consider a project in a site where bats are present, this will end up complicating matters and this is best avoided. Hence a landscape architecture will be able to enlighten your buying decision.

The legislations which are involved in this include:

  • The Conservation Regulations 1994 which was amended in 2007
  • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  • The Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000
  • The Conservations of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010

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These laws basically make it illegal to:

  • Deliberately disturb bats while occupying a roost
  • Damage a bat roost
  • Destroy a bat roost
  • Obstruct access to a bat roost
  • Kill, injure or capture bats, either intentionally or recklessly.

So, as you may see bats are heavily protected by UK laws, and ideally one should make it a point to stay away from considering a site for development where bats are present.

Developers will be required to make every effort to safeguard any bats or roosts present on a site. Certain works such as demolition and maintenance works will require a Habitats Regulations License before being allowed to commence. This is a permit that will need to be applied for, and even when one has such a license, it is critical to ensure that every possible safeguard to the creatures on the site is seen to. A specialist landscape architecture firm will be able to carry out bat surveys professionally.

Licensed professionals will have extensive experience as well as training in various bat survey techniques. They will also utilize specialised equipment such as highly sensitive digital recording equipment to be able to undertake an analysis of bat calls.

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The bat survey results will be used to compile the documentation that is deemed necessary for an EPS license application. This is because if bats were present, an EPS license application (European Protected Species) would be required. This would need to be submitted once full planning permission has been given, and only after all design amendments have been agreed in writing with the authorities. The application itself involves two main parts, namely the bat survey findings and the mitigation details. These will need to be clearly illustrated. There will also need to be a statement that includes planning consent and planning history of that particular site. A landscape architecture specialist can prepare all these documents.

Once the EPS license application has been submitted, there will be at least 30 days until a decision is made. If a license is issued, the developer would be able to start work on the site or building, but only under the supervision of a licensed bat specialist.

Moreover, if it is known that the development or maintenance work will be affecting a known bat roost, additional monitoring will be required as part of the license. This would need to be done for two years after the works have been completed.




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