The 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Bat Surveys
If you have been asked for bat survey, then you probably have plenty of questions. We'll cover everything you need to know here, and if you’re still unsure of anything then just give us a call using the number above or drop us a message and we will do our best to help.
Q1 – Why do I need a bat survey?
You have been asked for a bat survey because all 18 species of bats living and breeding in the UK are protected by law.
These statutes include the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2019, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. There are more, but between these overlapping pieces of legislation they protect bats and their roosts from disturbance or harm, even unwittingly. You are liable to prosecution if you disperse, disturb, capture, harm or kills bats without a licence.
Bats roost in voids and crevices that can be found in a variety of buildings and other structures where small defects and architectural features create new habitat that replaces the loss of natural habitat (caves and trees, primarily). If you are planning works to a building that has features such as:
- Gaps and cracks in weatherboarding
- Loose, lifted or missing tiles and flashing
- Gaps in stonework and walls
- Open void access (barns for example)
Additionally, if your property is more than say 40 years old, and especially when there is suitable foraging habitat nearby (such as watercourses and woodland), then there is a very good chance that bats are making use of your site.
Q2 – What is a bat survey?
Bat surveys come in various forms, but the two most common are:
- an initial assessment - often called a scoping bat survey or preliminary roost assessment
- a nocturnal/activity survey – often called a bat emergence survey
The purpose of a preliminary roost assessment is to identify and catalogue evidence of bat activity. If there is no physical evidence of bat occupation (e.g., dead bats, droppings, prey remains or urine stains) then the ecologist will make an assessment of potential roosting features (PRFs). Together with a desk study of local data searches, the physical evidence and PRFs will either individually or in aggregate be a trigger for emergence survey—or preferably, confirm no further action is necessary!
A bat emergence survey is designed to characterise the roost if in the scoping exercise your ecologist was not able to rule out bat occupation. These surveys take place at dusk or dawn, and generally involve 2 or more surveyors using hi-tech equipment like bat detectors and infra-red or thermal imaging cameras. Together with the preliminary roost assessment, an emergence survey provides enough evidence for the local planning authority to make a decision about granting planning permission.
It's worth noting that in thousands of surveys, we have never had a client refused planning.
Q3 – When is the bat survey season?
A preliminary roost assessment can be done any time of the year, whereas a good rule of thumb for bat emergence surveys is that the season is constrained from May to September.
However, there are exceptions to this. For instance, you may be able to survey in April, or October. Equally, in the worst case, you may need to survey strictly between mid-May and August. The best thing to do is to talk to us about your site and proposals so that we can advise you accordingly.
Q4 – What will a bat survey cost me?
- Preliminary roost assessment – from £299+VAT
- Emergence surveys – from £799+VAT
Batsurveys.co.uk does not charge mileage and hidden extras on top. These prices include your reports, plans, and all extras.
In both cases, these from prices are for small, simple sites that are located nearby other surveys we have ongoing and therefore can reduce our single site fee by passing our cost saving on to you. If you want an accurate price right now, simply call us and talk to one of our friendly team.
Q5 – Are there any other costs I need to be aware of?
Potentially. If you need a third-party disbursement (such as local biological records data or DNA testing of samples) these are not included with our quoted price.
This is because e.g., DNA lab tests of droppings are required only in a minority of cases, and because we have to outsource this work to a third-party laboratory (such as the University of Warwick), we quote their costs back to you.
Otherwise, we’d have to build these costs into our service and that wouldn’t be fair to the majority of people that simply don’t need them.
A typical cost for local data records searches is £100+VAT (payable to your local wildlife trust), and about the same for DNA testing of bat droppings (payable to the lab). It’s best to discuss this with your ecologist to help decide whether either of these disbursements will be necessary to get you planning.
Q5 – How long is a bat survey valid for?
The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management produces a document to advise professional ecologists about the shelf-life of ecological reports. Batsurveys.co.uk recommends having your survey done:
- As early as possible for feasibility stage work (RIBA plan of work stage 0-1)
- Within 12-24 months of submitting for a planning application for preliminary roost assessments
- Within 6-12 months of submitting for a planning application for bat emergence surveys
- Within one survey season for European protected species mitigation licence applications
- Within 3 months for bat mitigation class licence applications (also called low impact bat licences)
Q6 – Can bats stop me from getting planning?
In a word, no.
If you hire one of our friendly bat ecologists, we’ll make sure you get planning. Sure, there will be the odd hoop to jump through – a fact of life with the planning process in general – but if you follow the advice that we give you to the letter, we guarantee you planning permission. We’ve never failed yet.
Further, we have never had a bat licence application refused by Natural England or Natural Resources Wales.
The main things you need to secure a planning consent are:
- The right surveys, at the right time of year by a professional, licenced ecologist
- A bat mitigation and habitat enhancements plan (to form part of conditions of planning consent)
- To follow the advice that you are given and not try to shortcut the process
Any horror stories you read online about bats delaying planning for months or years and costing tens of thousands of pounds are almost exclusively when someone has tried to skip a step of the process or ignored the advice they were given. Local authorities take a very dim view of habitat destruction (not to mention the police wildlife crime unit) or planning applicants trying to submit for detailed consent without doing all of the necessary work to demonstrate an absence of bats or show how their habitat loss will be mitigated for.
Q7 – Do I need a bat survey to replace my roof? Or for permitted development?
Firstly, the law protecting bats and their habitat doesn’t suddenly vanish just because you don’t need a planning consent. It is very wise to get your 'ducks in a row' before you do any work under general permitted development rights (GPDR).
Secondly, the Royal Town Planning Institute guidance paper on Biodiversity confirms that previously a planning inspector has confirmed in a case (appeal decision: APP/L3245/W/15/3004467) that biodiversity considerations still apply when dealing with permitted development.
Ultimately, if you’re doing work or alternations to the exterior of a structure, it’s probably very wise to at least talk to an ecologist first and get a professional opinion.
Q8 – Who are you and where are you based?
Based in Eastleigh, Hampshire, Batsurveys.co.uk has Britain's leading provider of ecological survey work for bats in the UK, for over 10 years.
We have directed employed staff across England and Wales, as well as a large network of time-served subcontractors that help us get to more remote spots where otherwise clients would have limited choices and perhaps not get competitive quotes.
All of our ecologists are licenced to survey for bats (class 1 or 2) and can undertake work in England, Scotland and Wales. We have four senior ecologists that can undertake bat licences for clients in England and Wales, and one principal ecologist that can provide low impact bat licences (also called a bat mitigation class licence) in England.
If you want to know more about us, why not call up for a chat or read our testimonials online?
Q9 – When are the new bat survey guidelines coming out?
The current edition of the Bat Conservation Trust’s bat survey guidelines for professional ecologists are from 2016. There is a new iteration in the works, originally due to be published in 2019, but now scheduled for some time late in 2021.
We cannot be sure that anything material will change, although recent scientific research has shown that crevice dwelling species of bats can be confirmed absent for a site with 95% confidence if four emergence surveys are undertaken instead of the 1, 2 or 3 that are acceptable presently. Perhaps then, standards will tighten up and sadly, this means an increased cost to clients looking to gain planning permission. Time will tell.
Q10 – Why can't bat surveys be conditions of planning permission?
Finally, law notwithstanding (see answer to Q1), ODPM Circular 06/05 makes it very clear that planning authorities must consider biodiversity up front in a planning determination. This is why your local planning authority has asked you for a bat survey now, and not as a condition of your permission.
And that's your 10 most FAQs answered!