Located in South East England, Surrey is a primarily rural county with an abundance of protected species present. It is home to an extensive selection of outdoor areas, natural elements, countryside attractions and historic features, and the county benefits from a wealth of wildlife trusts and experts in nature and history.
Although landlocked, a wide range of wetlands feature in Surrey, as well as grasslands and woodlands. In fact, it is regarded as the most wooded county in England, housing many of the UK’s present bat species, including a particularly copious stronghold of whiskered bats.
Both trees and forms of infrastructure can act as bat roosts, and as a result, natural and man-made structures across Surrey may have inadvertently gone on to support roosting bats. Whether or not any species have been sighted, UK laws enforce that an assessment will need to occur before any development projects that could disturb bats take place.
Community Bat Groups
Protections over bats in the area come from the Surrey Bat Group – a community of ecologists that respond to enquiries and concerns involving local bats. Planning features as a common potential threat to Surrey bats, with the group providing advice and support to members of the public on the likely impact local developments could have on legally protected bats.
With similar duties to the nationwide Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), the Surrey Bat Group also assists the local council with criteria for planning applications to ensure that bat surveys are conducted when necessary. In regards to the bats present in Surrey, commonly spotted species include barbastelle bats, bechstein’s bats, brown long-eared bats, greater horseshoe bats, lesser horseshoe bats and pipistrelle bats.
Under existing relevant legislation including the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, bats are protected, meaning that there are limitations over proposed works that could affect bats. Without the necessary ecology services, the proposed development would be breaking the law if bats are found, and it will be harder for the developer to secure planning permission.
Surveying for Bat Species
The presence of a bat or evidence that could indicate bat occupancy will lead to the need for a bat survey on the development site, starting with a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA). Signs of bats on the site could include bat droppings, carcasses, the remains of prey and site elements that could act as a viable bat roost.
Alternatively, if a developer has pre-empted potential ecological constraints on the site, they may have arranged for a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), which may have in turn prompted further surveys such as protected species surveys for bats, great crested newts, water voles and other present wildlife.
PRAs involve a professional ecologist looking over the entirety of the site, all buildings, any old trees and other structures to find bats or signs of bats. If they can categorically state that there are no bats on the site, the bat report will reflect these findings and the development proposal can move forwards with assurances to the local authorities that will support the application for planning consent.
If, however, the ecologist believes that bats are on the site and there is potential for them to affect or be affected by the development, they will provide expert advice and appropriate mitigation measures, as well as recommending a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS). Only undertaken during the optimal time between May and September, bat emergence surveys involve multiple experienced ecologists attending the site at dusk and dawn on several occasions to monitor the area.
Also known as bat activity surveys, emergence surveys are an opportunity for specialist equipment to be used as a way of determining the entry and exit points, populations, flight paths and species of bat on the site. As with all ecology surveys including a PRA, PEA, ecological impact assessment and other European protected species surveys, the assessment will conclude with the ecologist producing a report to give the local planning authority all the data needed to grant a planning application.
If bats are present and changes involve moving bats or destroying bat roosts, a bat mitigation class licence will be needed. We possess comprehensive experience in arranging bat licence applications and ensuring that developers receive them correctly, allowing them to make the appropriate changes to their site to meet the requirements of the local authority.
Speak to Us
Across our team is a broad range of professionals, from our graduates in training to our advanced principal ecologist. With the suitable licensing, training and qualifications – as well as a full understanding of guidance from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), Natural England and Natural Resources Wales – our surveyors are experts in bat surveys and the many species of bat in circulation.
Before running the risk of seeing obstacles and penalties in the planning process of your development project, it would be advisable to speak to our friendly team, provide us with details of your site and project over the phone or online, and arrange the necessary bat surveys. Simply contact us and we will send across a free quote for you to consider.
Our bat ecologists are available in Surrey and other parts of Southern England, meaning we can attend your site to carry out bat surveys, including Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRA) and Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Surveys (BERS). We work closely with all of our clients, and using our guidance, we can help you with granting planning permission on your site and – if needed – gaining a European protected species licence.