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Guidance on encountering Bats, a protected species, during the development process including regulations, requirements and actions.
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Overview

The Bat Conservation Trust Helpline 0845 1300 228 www.bats.org.uk

Did you know! Bats are one of the most frequently encountered wild animals in development!

Wales is home to 16 species of bat occupying a number of habitat, including occasional, maternity and hibernation sites known as a roost. Of these 16 species of bat, up to 10 are regularly recorded in the Bridgend area. Bats are afforded protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), as well as under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended), and as such causing damage to a bat roost or killing, injuring or disturbing bats constitutes a criminal offence.

Why does the local authority need a survey to be submitted for planning?

National planning policy states that it is essential that the presence or otherwise of a protected species and the extent that it may be affected by a proposed development is established before any planning permission is granted. Otherwise all relevant material considerations may not be addressed in making the decision.

This means that local authority must have enough information to rule out any impact of the development on a protected species (in this case bats) before it can make its decision. As with other surveys requirements for planning, it is the applicant’s responsibility to provide this information.

Bats roost in numerous locations including buildings, structures, trees and woodland. It is vital to avoid damaging or disturbing a roost during and after development

Do I need to undertake a survey?

Not always. Not all buildings have bats, but we don’t know where all the bats are! Bats like many animals prefer to use certain buildings close / linked to habitats which they like. We use guidance from the Bat Conservation Trust’s Good Practice Guidelines (2012) to help us identify which developments are most likely to encounter bats.

Please note that when it is considered that it is not reasonable to request a survey it doesn’t mean that bats will not be present, if bats are found during development it is essential to remember that they are still a protected species and it is a criminal offence to disturb them. Please refer to the bat warning for further information.

Did you know! Due to continued loss of habitat bats have had to take residence in many of our buildings or trees in our gardens in order to survive. Often you will not know that they are there! But don’t worry they won’t do any harm.

The following information is aimed at helping you identify whether bats could be affected by your development in which case you may need a bat survey to accompany your application.

GUIDANCE NOTE 1:

If your development proposals involve any of the following activities the Council will require a bat survey carried out by a suitably experienced and qualified ecologist.

  • Conversion, modification, demolition or removal of any building (including derelict buildings) which are:
    • Agricultural Buildings (e.g. farmhouses, barns and outbuildings) of traditional brick or stone construction and/or with exposed wooden beams;
    • Buildings with weather boarding and/or hanging tiles that are within 200m of woodland and/or water;
    • Pre-1960 detached buildings and structures within 200m of woodland and/or water;
    • Pre-1914 buildings within 400m of woodland and/or water;
    • Pre-1914 buildings with gable ends and/or slate roofs, regardless of location;
    • Located within, or immediately adjacent to woodland and/or immediately adjacent to water;
    • Dutch barns or livestock buildings with a single skin roof and board-and-gap or Yorkshire boarding if, following a preliminary roost assessment the site appears to be particularly suited to bats.
  • Development affecting built structures:
    • Tunnels, mines, kilns, ice-houses, adits, military fortifications, air-raid shelters, cellars and similar underground ducts and structures, unused industrial chimneys that are unlined and of brick/stone construction
    • Bridge structures, aqueducts and viaducts (especially over water and wet ground)
  • Lighting of:
    • Churches, listed buildings, green space (e.g. sports pitches) within 50m of woodland, field hedgerows or lines of trees with connectivity to woodland or water
    • Any building meeting the criteria listed above
  • Felling, removal or lopping of:-
    • Woodland
    • Field hedgerows and/or lines of trees with connectivity to woodland or water bodies
    • Old and veteran trees that are more than 100 years old
    • Mature trees with obvious holes, cracks, cavities or which are covered with mature ivy (including large dead trees)
  • Proposals affecting water bodies
    • In or within 200m of rivers, streams, canals, lakes, reedbeds or other aquatic habitats
  • Proposals located in or immediately adjacent to
    • Quarries or gravel pits
    • Natural cliff faces and rock outcrops with crevices or caves and swallets ( sink-holes)
  • Proposals for wind farm developments of multiple wind turbines and single wind turbines (depending on size and location), proposals for small domestic turbines will need to be dealt with on a site by site basis
  • All proposals in sites where bats are known to be present

If your development meets any of the criteria in the trigger list above please see Guidance sheet B9 Ecological survey requirements for further guidance on bat surveys.

Whether or not your development requires a survey please see the new benefits section below. All development provides an opportunity to enhance biodiversity and by incorporating simple measures into the development you can help contribute to the population and maybe you will have some surprising benefits of encouraging these mammals into your gardens.

Bat Warning

Sometimes your development may involve an activity that may be a risk to bats, should bats be using the property as a roost. However, many factors such as location and condition/ type of building, existing records of bats etc. all influence the likelihood of bats being present. In all cases Bridgend CBC weigh up the risk of the development to bats and in some cases, whilst there is a risk of encountering bats during the development because of the nature of the works, the building proposed for works may not have a reasonable likelihood of use by bats. In such cases it may not be considered reasonable to request the submission of a bat survey.

If a bat survey is not requested all applicants should be aware that:

British bats and their breeding sites and resting places are protected by law through UK legislation under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 which implements the EC Directive 92/43/EEC in the United Kingdom and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000). This legislation makes it an absolute offence to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place (sometimes referred to as a roost, whether the animal is present at the time or not), intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a place used for shelter and protection, or deliberately capture, injure, kill, or disturb a bat/bats.

Many species of bat depend on buildings for roosting; each having its own preferred type of roost. Some species roost in crevices such as under ridge tiles, behind roofing felt or in cavity walls and are therefore not often seen in the roof space. Bat roosts are protected even when bats are temporarily absent.

Although a bat survey may not be a requirement of your planning application, the possibility of encountering a bat roost when works begin cannot be eliminated unless a full bat survey is first conducted. The decision as to whether or not to conduct a bat survey lies with you (the applicant). However, if you (the applicant) are aware of bats using the building then it is essential you commission a bat survey.

The following good practice guidelines should be followed by all applicants whose development involves any risk to bats:

Contractors should be made aware that there is a small chance of encountering bat roosts unexpectedly during the development work. In the unlikely event of bats being found to be present on site, work should stop immediately and advice sought from the Natural Resources Wales, (NRW) (Natural Resources Wales can be contacted at enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk or on 0300 065 3000).

Further information on bats and buildings can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) website.

New Benefits

As prescribed in Section A of this SPG, all major and sensitive developments are expected to contribute to green infrastructure in some way.

Larger developments will often be accompanied by a survey with recommendations for biodiversity enhancements which will often be included as conditions of the application. On this scale we encourage developers to consider biodiversity enhancements in the design concept phase and challenge innovative design to not only benefit biodiversity but to include multiple benefits through the Green Infrastructure Approach.

However, all developments can contribute biodiversity enhancements through the planning process.

Contribute to the future of the local bat population on your home

Enhancements to buildings can help sustain the existing bat population and where suitable roosting sites are few and far between may have a positive influence on bat numbers. There exist a number of different features that can be ‘built in’ during development that can support the bat populations. Fabricated bat bricks and bat boxes are available to include in the construction and offer unobtrusive and maintenance-free opportunities for new benefits. Other bespoke features appropriate to the development such as hanging tiles and timber cladding can also provide additional benefit. examples of bat tiles, bricks, integrated bat boxes from BCT

As per survey requirements, locations that feature on the BCT trigger list and require a survey even if found to be negative for bats are likely to have the greatest benefit when enhancements are included into the development. In such cases simple biodiversity enhancements may be included as conditions in the development.

Further information on bats and buildings can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) website:

Please note that the inclusion of bat box/bricks and access tiles does not replace the mitigation required as part of the licence.

Enhancement - measures to increase the quality, quantity, net value or importance of biodiversity or geological interest (TAN 5)

Compensation

GUIDANCE NOTE 5:

Compensation will only be considered where the developer/applicant has satisfactorily demonstrated that avoidance and mitigation are not possible and the compensatory measures result in no net loss of habitat.

In a very small percentage of cases it will not be possible either to avoid adverse impact on the ecology of the site, or to mitigate to reduce the adverse impact. In such cases compensation will be sought. This will only be considered after all other options have been explored without finding a sufficient solution. The provision of compensation should be relevant to the loss that has occurred within the development site and should ultimately aim to provide an overall biodiversity gain.

The level of compensatory measures required following works on or close to bats and their roosts will depend on the level of disturbance and the degree of mitigation which can be implemented. Some low impacts could be balanced out with the provision of bat boxes on or close to the existing location. Larger impacts such as the complete loss of a roost will require much greater compensation such as new roost sites (i.e. a purpose built bat barn). This will normally be required to be built prior to any demolition or alterations, and so will have impacts on the development schedule. It is therefore important to understand fully the requirements of the licence before finalising your development programme.

Whatever compensatory measures are undertaken, it is vital to ensure a no-loss approach is followed and that the functions of the new measures match those of the old. An example could be where a hibernation roost has been lost due to development; this must be replaced with an alternative site that is a suitable hibernation roost for the particular species of bat using the previous hibernation roost.

Compensatory measures/compensation - measures taken or proposed to be taken to offset, or make up for, residual adverse effects resulting from development or other change after all avoidance, cancellation and reduction measures have been applied (TAN 5)

Mitigation

If disturbance of protected species or habitat is unavoidable then a suitable mitigation scheme will need to be agreed. If evidence of bats has been found, avoidance has been ruled out, where harm is unavoidable then the loss of a roost/ disturbance to bats will have to be mitigated for. If there is a need to mitigate for a protected species during an activity such as demolition or renovation works to a building(s) or felling of trees a licence from Natural Resources Wales will be required. The type of mitigation/avoidance measures (such as timing of works) included within the licence application will be dependent on the species of bat found and the type of bat
roost found.

GUIDANCE NOTE 4:

Where harm is unavoidable it should be minimised by mitigation measures. The bat consultant undertaking the survey will be able to guide you through the licence application process.

Where avoidance is not possible, mitigation can provide a means to enhance the site for protected species. Measures put in place for mitigation can also contribute to the sustainability of the development and be designed with the Green Infrastructure Approach in mind. Incorporating well designed natural features into developments can help contribute to the required mitigation but also provide multiple benefits.

Avoidance

GUIDANCE NOTE 3:

Developers/applicants must providesufficient evidence to demonstrate that avoidance is not possible before mitigation or compensation is considered as a viable alternative.

Once the extent of bats is understood you can take steps to avoid disturbing them. This could simply be retaining the roost location and/or foraging/commuting habitat within your plan; can you redesign the scheme to incorporate these elements? Timing of development or preparing for development activities is equally important. Most roosts are seasonal (i.e. breeding roosts in spring summer and hibernation in winter) this provides windows of opportunity to carry out works during the periods when roosts are not in use.

It is important to note that a roost is protected regardless of whether bats are present at the time of works or not, so it is important to seek professional advice to assist with your scheme.

Avoidance measures - measures taken or proposed to be taken that are designed to avoid (eliminate) adverse effects of change, such as locating a development away from areas of ecological interest (TAN 5).

Professional ecologists can help you identify possible impacts on bats and identify how to avoid harm including identifying potential impacts you may not think of. The lighting scheme for example, can have detrimental impacts on wildlife including bats. Identifying this at an early stage and inclusion into the development provides an opportunity to avoid harm to protected species, by providing dark corridors for movement (such as rear gardens, non-lit cycle paths) and the need for additional surveys and licenses whilst also reducing the light pollution of a development.

Incorporating the landscape features into the design / master plan of the development will help avoid harm to bats but should also be considered for their multiple green infrastructure benefits and contributions to satisfying related policies and requirements.

Maintaining hedgerows: can help contribute to the Landscape Character (SP2, SP4 and ENV3) whilst also maintaining flight-lines for bats. There are multiple benefits of trees and hedgerows and these features should be incorporated into developments.

Survey Requirements

In terms of surveying the site and/or elements of the site for the presence of bats you should consider the timing of surveys. Different types of bat survey are carried at different times of the year and this could impact on you development schedule, it is important you are clear at what time these will be taking place.

It is worth noting that the survey effort will vary depending on the location of the site, character, level of impact and species potentially affected.

The most common survey requested from household developments is an initial bat survey and report. This survey involves a habitat assessment and inspection of the building/potential roost which can be made at any time of year and may be enough to submit the bat survey report for planning permission if there is considered to be no risk to bats.

GUIDANCE NOTE 2:

The Council will only accept survey/assessment work which has been undertaken by a suitably qualified person within the recognised survey guidelines.

All survey/assessment work must be undertaken and prepared by competent persons with suitable qualifications, licenses and experience. Survey work must be carried out at an appropriate time and month of year, in suitable weather conditions and using nationally recognised survey guidelines/ methods where available and working to best practice standards (for guidance visit ‘sources for survey methods’ at:- http://www.cieem.net/sources-of-survey-methods-sosm-)

Reports should also include detailed information on impact assessment and include any necessary measures for avoidance, mitigation, compensation and enhancement. Further guidance on bat surveys and mitigation at the time of publication for development (buildings, wind turbines etc.) can be found at Natural England website, and from the Bat Conservation Trust; Bat Surveys Good Practice Guidelines (2012).

Legislation

All species of bat and their breeding sites or resting places (roosts) receive full statutory protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) (the Habitats Regulations).

It is an offence for anyone intentionally to kill, injure or handle a bat, to possess a bat (whether live or dead), disturb a roosting bat, or sell or offer a bat for sale without a licence. It is also an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place used by bats for shelter, whether they are present or not.

It is extremely important that developers and landowners wishing to undertake activities that may affect bats obtain site-specific advice before formulating their designs and programme.

Activities that may result in the above offences taking place can in some instances be permitted. However, a strict process of licensing must be observed and followed for this to be lawful.

If the proposed activity requires planning consent, or any other type of consent (e.g. listed building consent, extraction licence, etc.), this consent must be in place and provided to Natural Resources Wales with the licence application.

Developers and landowners should note that a licence is often required from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to carry out development and vegetation clearance works that may impact on bats (and any other European protected species), irrespective of whether planning permission is required to undertake those works. Failing to secure a licence before starting development or site clearance works could result in an offence(s) being committed. This could lead to delay, prosecution, fines, confiscation of equipment, legal fees and, potentially, a custodial sentence.

A licence is granted under the provisions set out in the Habitats Regulations. In order to grant a licence, NRW must be satisfied that the proposed activity meets the criteria in the Habitats Regulations, often referred to as “the three tests”.

These tests include:

  • the need for the proposed development/activity;
  • consideration of possible alternatives (e.g. activity, method, timing, phasing, location etc.);
  • maintaining the favourable conservation status of the population of bats to be affected.

The Habitats Regulations imposes a similar duty on Bridgend County Borough Council to consider the impact of a proposed development on bats before determining planning applications that could affect the species or their habitats. The Council must therefore also be satisfied that the proposals will meet the criteria of the three tests set out in the Habitats Regulations in order to grant planning consent. This duty is irrespective of whether the application is for outline, reserved matters or full planning.


In order to assist the Council and NRW (if a licence is required) assess proposals, the developer or landowner must provide sufficient information to make the determination against the Habitats Regulations, including:

  • up to date presence / absence survey data;
  • population estimate, if present;
  • habitat assessment;
  • impact assessment;
  • mitigation and compensation strategy;
  • management and monitoring plan.

PENALTIES:

The maximum penalty for non-compliance with the above legislation for each offence is a £5000 fine and/or six months imprisonment. Any equipment used to commit the offence may be forfeited. Both the company and the individuals can be held liable.

Bats

 

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