Loss of natural roosts has increased the importance of man-made structures for bats to the point that artificial roosts are becoming essential in the survival of many bat species. However even these man-made roosts are now under threat; demolition of old buildings, renovations, changes in use, artificial lighting and the move towards air-tight buildings, all have implications for bat populations.
Due to the decline in bat numbers over the last century, all species of bat are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) as amended, Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010). This makes it illegal to deliberately or recklessly kill, injure, capture or disturb bats, obstruct access to bat roosts or damage or destroy bat roosts, whether occupied or not.
Bats do not make nests or cause structural damage. The most obvious sign of their presence is droppings but even these can be hard to find. Bat droppings consist largely of insect remains and crumble easily between your fingers to a powder of semi-shiny fragments, whereas rodent droppings are smooth and plastic, quickly becoming hard, and cannot be crumbled. Droppings may not always be readily visible in a loft. Other signs to look for are grease marks on the rafters, urine splashes, cobweb free corners, or insect remains from a feeding perch.
Conservation trust helpline
A planning application may be refused if there is a reasonable likelihood of bats being present. Having bats does not mean that building work cannot take place, but to satisfy planning consent an ecological consultant should be employed. If you suspect there is a bat roost in your proposed building, consult your local Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO) via the Bat Conservation Trust Helpline, before work starts and follow their advice. In many cases they will send a trained licensed volunteer bat worker to inspect your roost and provide advice, free of charge.
It is always important to keep in mind the possibility of finding bats part-way through a project. If bats are found during works, all work should stop and your local SNCO should be consulted immediately.
Steps to follow if bats are suspected on your project site:
- 1. Contract an ecological consultant
- 2. Undertake a bat survey (at the appropriate time of year)
- 3. If bats are present, compile a mitigation plan/method statement to be shared with architects and/or building contractors
- 4. Incorporate the bat survey report and mitigation plan/method statement into planning application
- 5. Apply for planning permission
- 6. Apply for a European Protected Species license (if needed)
- 7. If granted, carry out works with ecologist supervision
- 8. Compliance check to ensure that mitigation is being properly implemented
- 9. Monitor the site to check response of the bat population to the mitigation