Frequently Asked Questions About Bat Surveys
If you have been asked for a bat survey or have reason to believe that bats may be present on your site, you will probably have plenty of questions. Below, we have covered everything you need to know in the form of a broad range of bat survey FAQs. However, if for any reason you have more questions that haven’t been answered on this page, give us a call using the number above, drop us a message or fill out the form and we will be happy to help.
Why Do I Need a Bat Survey?
You require a bat survey because all 18 protected species of bats living and breeding in the UK are fully protected by law, and the works you are planning could potentially disturb them. Statutes protecting bat species situated across the UK include the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2019.
Other overlapping pieces of UK and European legislation protect bats, bat roosts and other potential roosting sites, support bats and prevent disturbance or harm from coming to them, even unintentionally or unwittingly. Anyone carrying out a new development on land that houses bats at the first instance needs to acquire a European protected species licence (bat licence). Without a European protected species licence for roosting bats, you are liable to prosecution if you inadvertently or deliberately kill, injure, disperse, capture, harm or disturb bats in any way, shape or form.
What Kind of Works Would Affect Bats?
Various types of proposed development works could potentially affect bats present on the site. It could be argued that any works would prompt the need to undertake a bat survey. However, in terms of tangible examples, works that could impact bats native to the area include extension, conversion, modification or demolition works, road building and maintenance, and hedgerow or tree removal.
In summary, almost any development proposal could be subject to the presence of bats that may be able to obstruct access points for the works, from independent barn conversions to large-scale commercial projects. As a result, the need for effective bat surveys undertaken by qualified bat surveyors would act as a necessary cautionary measure to appease relevant legislation, avoid disturbing bats and support roosting bats.
What is a Bat Survey?
Bat surveys are conducted with the purpose of determining whether or not individual bats are present on a development site before gauging specific details such as bat species, numbers and location, and assessing effective methods of enabling the project to move ahead as planned without endangering them.
Although there are several types of more detailed assessment to address different considerations, the two types that are classed as the most common bat surveys are:
- An initial assessment (phase one survey) – often called a Scoping Bat Survey or Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)
- A nocturnal/activity survey (phase two survey) – often called a Bat Emergence Survey, Dusk and Dawn Survey or Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS).
As the phase one bat survey, the purpose of a PRA is to identify and catalogue evidence of bats and bat activity. If there is no physical evidence of bat occupation (e.g. dead bat carcasses, bat droppings, prey feeding remains, urine stains or likely resting places) during a physical inspection, the professional ecologist will make an assessment of high potential roosting features (PRFs).
Together, with a desk study of local data searches, the physical evidence and PRFs will either individually or in aggregate act as a trigger for an Emergence Survey – or, preferably, confirm that no further action is necessary.
Once it is established that bat populations are occupying the site, a Bat Emergence Survey is designed to characterise the bat roost, including bat species, population numbers and entry and exit points. Solely conducted outside of daylight hours at dusk and dawn, bat activity surveys generally involve two or more surveyors and the use of hi-tech equipment like bat detectors and infrared or thermal imaging cameras to carry out an internal and external inspection and monitor bats entering and exiting the roost at potential access points. Between the results of the PRA and the Emergence Survey, there should be sufficient evidence for the local planning authority to make a decision about granting planning for your project.
It is worth noting that, over the course of thousands of bat surveys for numerous clients, industries and purposes, we have never seen a client refused planning applications.
When is the Bat Survey Season?
Due to the nature of a Preliminary Roost Assessment, they can be conducted at any time of the year, regardless of season or weather conditions. However, Bat Emergence Surveys must be undertaken between May and September, as it is outside of bat hibernation. Despite this, a bat activity assessment may be permitted in April or October under certain circumstances, particularly if the weather allows for it. Ideally, a BERS would be held in the optimal time during the summer months between May and August.
Where do Bats Roost?
One of the factors that make bat surveys such a necessary component in the planning process is the extensive selection of locations where a bat can create a roost. Bats and their roosts can appear in a broad range of important areas, including crevice-dwelling bats in voids and crevices that can be found in buildings and other structures where small defects and architectural features create new habitat to replace the net loss of natural habitats such as caves and trees.
Additionally, as a bat can use a different type of roost to suit a variety of purposes such as maternity roosts, for example, the number of new roosts can be far larger based on the roost type, and other species of bat may find certain roosts to be preferable over others. For instance, common pipistrelle bats tend to be particularly open to a vast array of roosting bat locations such as buildings, trees and bat boxes.
If you are planning new or existing building works on man-made structures that have features such as cracks and gaps in stonework or walls, loose, lifted or missing flashing, hanging tiles (particularly roof tiles and ridge tiles on slate roofs) weather boarding, or open void access, it is likely that there could be a roosting bat habitat on your site. Likewise, if your property is more than 40 years old with suitable foraging areas or foraging habitat – agricultural buildings, livestock buildings and buildings close to woodland or watercourses, for example – bat roosts could realistically be present.
How Much Does a Bat Survey Cost?
The price of our bat surveys will vary based on the size of your site and the scale of your project. As such, it would be sensible to get in touch with us so we can evaluate your circumstances, provide advice, implement adequate mitigation measures and supply you with an accurate quote based on these details.
On a baseline level, our bat survey prices are as follows:
Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) – from £299+VAT
Bat Emergence Surveys – from £799+VAT
In both cases, these prices are for small, simple sites that are located nearby to other surveys we have ongoing and therefore can reduce our single site fee by passing our cost savings on to you. Additionally, batsurveys.co.uk does not charge mileage and hidden extras on top, meaning that the price you are quoted will be all-encompassing and include your reports, plans and all extras. If you want an accurate price right now, simply call us and talk to one of our friendly team.
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, for example, these are not included in our quoted price. This is because components such as DNA lab tests of droppings are required only in a minority of cases, and as we would have to outsource this work to a third-party laboratory, such as the University of Warwick, we would need to 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 cost for DNA testing of bat droppings (payable to the lab). It would be best practice to discuss this potential factor with your licensed ecologist to help decide whether either of these disbursements will be necessary to get you planning.
How Long Is a Bat Survey Valid For?
The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) produces a document to advise professional ecologists about the shelf-life of ecological reports.
Between the advice of this document and our own expertise, we recommend that bat surveys are undertaken:
- As early as possible for feasibility stage work (RIBA plan of work stage 0-1)
- Within 12-24 months of submitting a full planning application for Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRAs)
- Within 6-12 months of submitting a full planning application for Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS)
- Within one survey season for European protected species mitigation licence applications
- Within three months for bat mitigation class licence applications (also called a low impact bat licence)
Do I Need a Bat Survey for Planning Permission?
Although planning consent may, in rare circumstances, be granted without a bat survey, it would be wise to arrange this type of assessment to minimise costly delays and avoid breaching UK law by eliminating the reasonable likelihood of disturbing bats. Based on these laws, it would be strongly advisable to arrange bat activity surveys as soon as you identify a bat found on the site, or evidence of bats that indicate a reasonable likelihood of the presence of bats on or near to the site. If, instead, you choose to defy habitats regulations, disturb a bat roost or even go as far as to intentionally kill roosting bats, the consequences of your actions will be severe.
It is common for a local planning authority to insist on seeing a bat survey report as part of your application for planning permission. If, however, you have been able to avoid this legal requirement, it may seem like an appetising shortcut, but in fact, it could emerge as an issue further down the line if bats are present on the site and your development proposals were capable of disturbing, interfering with or harming them.
Can Bats Stop Me From Getting Planning?
In a word, no.
If you hire one of our friendly licensed 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 further advice that we give you to the letter, we guarantee you planning. We’ve never failed yet or had a bat survey report disregarded by the local council’s planning department.
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, licensed bat ecologist
- A bat mitigation and habitat enhancements plan (to form part of the conditions of planning)
- To follow the advice that you are given and do 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. Follow the necessary steps accordingly by reaching out to a professional ecologist and you will secure planning permission.
Why Can’t Bat Surveys be Conditions of Planning Permission?
ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) Circular 06/05 makes it 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.
Firstly, it is important to be aware that the law ensuring bats and their habitat are legally protected doesn’t suddenly vanish just because you don’t need a granted planning application. 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’s detailed guidance paper on biodiversity confirms that a planning inspector has previously confirmed in a case (appeal decision: APP/L3245/W/15/3004467) that biodiversity considerations still apply when dealing with development.
Ultimately, if you’re doing work or alternations to the exterior of a structure, it’s probably wise to at least talk to an ecologist first and get a professional opinion.
When are the New Bat Survey Guidelines Coming Out?
The current edition of the full bat survey guidelines for professional ecologists developed by the Bat Conservation Trust is from 2016. Within this document, a combination of information from statutory nature conservation organisations including Natural England details how to determine the presence of bats on a site, how to identify certain species of bats present, how bat surveys should be carried out, and what sort of specialist equipment (such as bat detectors, specialist cameras and radio tagging tools) should be used, as well as general methods of ensuring strong bat conservation that will apply to most cases.
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 from a site with 95% confidence if four Emergence Surveys are undertaken instead of the one, two or three surveys that are acceptable presently. Perhaps then, standards will tighten up and sadly, this means an increased cost to clients looking to gain planning permission. Unfortunately, at this point, it is mere speculation and only time will tell.
Who Are You and Where Are You Based?
Based in Eastleigh, Hampshire, batsurveys.co.uk has been Britain’s leading provider of ecological survey work for bats in the UK for over 10 years. Our team are aware of the latest standards from Natural England and the BCT, and possesses the knowledge and experience to determine appropriate mitigation and compensation measures on any site, enabling them to gauge whether you may need further surveys or any other components that could support and strengthen an application for planning consent.
Mitigation work could range from changes as simple as installing bat boxes as a more suitable roosting location that bats can use, or significant alterations that will ensure the safety of bats protected by legislation and bypass factors that could disturb bats unnecessarily.
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 clients would have otherwise limited choices and perhaps not the option of competitive quotes.
All of our experienced ecologists are licensed to survey for bats (class 1 or 2) and can conduct 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 who can provide low-impact bat licences (also called a bat mitigation class licence or simply as a bat mitigation licence) in England.
How do I Book a Bat Survey?
If you want to book a bat survey with one of our expert ecologists, or if you’d simply like to know more about us, call us on the number above, fill out the form at the top of this page or check out our other communication options on our ‘Contact Us‘ page.
Assuming you are happy with the quote we provide you with, we can then work with you to determine a suitable date and time for a bat surveyor to visit your site, assess the presence of UK bat species, investigate the locations of each individual bat roost, and conduct the necessary bat surveys. At this point, the professional ecologist can also advise on whether any further surveys would benefit a planning application.