Last edited 31 Mar 2016

Bats and construction

Contents

[edit] Introduction

In the United Kingdom, there are 18 different species of bats, all of which are legally protected. They live in a variety of environments across the UK. All their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by European Law.

[edit] Habitats and lifecycle

In order to survive, bats require water and insects to eat, hunting areas (foraging habitat), places to hibernate, sleep and raise young (roosts). They also require routes between these different locations (commuting routes).

[edit] Roosts

Bats require a variety of different roosting habitats depending on the time of year. In the summer, female bats will require a maternity roost in order to raise young, while in winter, hibernation roosts are required by all bats. Roost sites vary and can include:

  • Trees.
  • Underground sites: Caves, mines or tunnels.
  • Bridges.
  • Houses.
  • Churches.
  • Barns.

[edit] Foraging and commuting habitat

All UK bats feed on insects and so foraging habitats include pastures, woodlands or water. In order to navigate between areas, bats use echolocation to navigate along hedgerows, woodland edges, treelines or watercourses.

[edit] Hibernation

Bats spend the winter hibernating, starting in October/November and typically emerging in March/April. The breeding season begins in June and continues over the summer.

[edit] Protection

Due to the decline of bats across Europe, they are a European Protected Species. As such, they are protected by both European and UK legislation.

It is illegal to:

  • Capture, kill, disturb or injure bats (either deliberately or by not taking enough care).
  • Damage or destroy their resting or breeding places.
  • Obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places.
  • Possess, sell, control or transport live or dead bats, or parts of them.

Any such offence could result in a prison sentence of up to 6 months and an unlimited fine for each offence together with the seizure of wealth gained by committing the offence and equipment used to cause the offence e.g. plant, machinery, vehicles etc.

[edit] Works that could affect bats

There are a range of situations in which bats could be present and affected by construction works:

  • Renovation works to an existing building.
  • Demolition of a building.
  • Pruning or cutting down a tree.
  • Repairing or replacing a roof on a house.
  • Repointing brickwork.
  • Works to lofts including insulation or conversions.
  • Removing commuting habitats such as hedgerows or watercourses.
  • Treating timber.
  • Installation of wind turbines.

[edit] Bats and development proposals

If it is considered that bats could be affected by a development, surveys by an ecologist may be necessary.

[edit] Survey methods

There are a variety of survey methods that are appropriate for different structures at different times of year, including:

  • Visual inspections.
  • Surveys using bat detectors.
  • Netting and harp trapping.
  • Radio-tracking.

[edit] Visual inspections

Visual inspections might be appropriate for buildings, structures or trees. For buildings, this could include a combination of an internal inspection of roof voids or loft spaces, and an external inspection for potential entry points. It is possible for inspections to be undertaken at any time of year.

If it is not possible to determine whether a roost is present from an inspection, further bat detector surveys are likely to be required. If evidence of bats is confirmed during the inspection, it is likely that further detector surveys would be required to inform licensing requirements.

[edit] Bat detector surveys

Bat detector surveys can only be undertaken during the bat active season which is typically considered to be between May and September. During that time period, several surveys are usually required at dawn or dusk. The surveys will last at least 2 hours.

[edit] Mitigation and licensing

If bats are found to be present and are considered likely to be affected by proposals, it may be necessary to obtain a protected species mitigation licence from Natural England, Natural Resources Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage in advance of works taking place. As part of the licence, a mitigation strategy will be required which will detail how impacts on bats and their habitats will be avoided or minimised wherever possible.

Mitigation measures may include:

  • Altering work methods or timing to avoid bats.
  • Creating or improving roosts.
  • Creating or improving foraging or commuting habitat.
  • Monitoring the roost sites after development.

[edit] Find out more

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.

[edit] External references