There are 17 species of bat currently resident in the UK. All are believed to be in continuing decline as they face many threats to their highly developed and specialised lifestyles. In general, their dependence on insects has left them vulnerable to habitat destruction, land drainage, habitat fragmentation, agricultural intensification and increased use of pesticides. Their reliance on buildings has also made them vulnerable to development including conversions, repairs and use of timber treatment chemicals. In the UK, bats are generally active from late March to mid October, hibernating from late October to mid March. In early summer, females gather in “maternity” roosts to give birth, normally producing a single offspring per year. This slow rate of reproduction inhibits re-population in areas of rapid decline. Bats are generally born in June and are dependent on their mothers for about six weeks. In autumn and winter, male and females gather for mating. The females are able to store sperm until spring when an egg may be fertilized. In winter, bats hibernate in sites that have a cool, humid and stable climate. Bats generally return to the same roost sites every year which makes them particularly vulnerable to disturbance or destruction of these sites. Some species of bat move roost frequently and use a number of different roost sites.
All bats are included in Schedule 2 of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, which implement the requirements of the Habitats Directive in England, Scotland and Wales and in Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) which implement the requirements of the Habitats Directive in Northern Ireland. Bats and their breeding sites or resting places are protected under Regulation 41. An amendment to the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 came into force in Northern Ireland on 21st August 2007 (Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007) . It is an offence for anyone without a license to:
Prosecution could result in imprisonment, fines of £5,000 per animal affected and confiscation of vehicles and equipment used.
Bat surveys are requested, usually by a planning authority, to determine the effects of development on bat species and to identify and stipulate any further information required on necessary mitigation, compensation or enhancement measures. Typically, bat surveys are sought when the development involves:
The survey information will also allow an informed decision to be taken as to whether a Euopean Protected Species (EPS) licence should be applied for and/or the relevant licensing body to determine an application for a EPS licence that would then enable the lawful disturbance of bats or the damage/destruction of their roosts. Typically for buildings, a survey will consist of a site visit in the day to look for signs of bats and a number of evening visits to identify any bats emerging from the buildings. The length and number of visits will depend on a number of factors including the size of the site, the type of buildings present within the site boundary and the time of year. This depends on the type of survey required. For example if a building is considered to be suitable for a maternity colony of bats the optimum period for surveying is May to August. The following table provides information about timing of surveys (from BCT's "Bat Surveys - Good Practice Guidelines").
LEGISLATION AND MITIGATION
Licences to allow works that may have impacts on species classified as European Protected Species under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 are issued by Natural England. A ‘EPS Habitats Regulations Licence’ could be required for:
There are three tests, which must be satisfied, before a licence can be issued to permit otherwise prohibited acts;
A European Protected Species License is required before the commencement of any development that might impact on bats or their roosts.
A licence application is accompanied by a method statement which is used to determine the impact of the application on the favourable conservation status of the species concerned. The method statement will include details of how bats will be protected during the development, which may include timing the work to avoid sensitive periods, as well as details of the provision of roosting sites, commuting routes and foraging routes. Part of the method statement will be appended as a license condition to any license granted.
Low Impact Bat Class Licence Dr Jon Russ is one of a small group of consultants currently registered to carry out work under the low impact class licence scheme. The licence covers seven species of bat – common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, whiskered bat, Brandt’s, Daubenton’s bat and Natterer’s bat - and is designed for low impact roosts only (i.e. not maternity roosts or hibernacula) where not more than three of the seven species mentioned above are affected. Licences are usually granted within 10 working days.