Do I Need A Bat Survey?

My Local Planning Authority has asked for a bat survey – Do I really need one?

If you are submitting a planning application that will involve the demolition of a building, modification of the roof line, or felling mature trees, you may be asked by your Local Planning Authority (LPA) to provide a Preliminary Bat Assessment (bat survey) to go with your application.

We have found that many LPAs are now not registering applications that do not have a bat report.

All British bat species are protected under the Habitat Regulations 2017 This legislation protects that bats and their roosting habitats and the LPA also have a legal duty to consider impacts on bats (and other species and habitats) when deciding on a planning application.

Some LPAs apply a risk assessment to the property based on parameters like the distance to woodland or water, or the age of the building before requesting that you supply a survey.  In reality though, bats can roost in brand new buildings or in the middle of urban areas, so this risk based approach isn’t always going to be accurate.

Many of our clients are confident that they do not have a bat roost in their property.  They may have lived or worked there for many years and never seen a bat.  However, bats don’t just roost in lofts where you might see them.  For example most bat roosts on residential buildings are between roof tiles and the weatherproof membrane, or behind hanging tiles.  Many of these roosts are a single bat, who may occupy the roost for only part of the summer and can be very difficult to detect.  Unfortunately the LPA is unlikely to consider that an applicant’s account is sufficient and a professional bat survey will be required.

It is worth noting that even if the LPA don’t ask for a bat survey, you may be well advised to undertaken one anyway to protect yourself legally – if you damage a bat roost this would be an offence, even if you are acting on a granted planning permission.  If you were to have an appropriate survey and found bats early in the project, you can put appropriate mitigation and licencing in place to keep everything above board.