All our British bat species will make use of buildings on occasion, but for some species, buildings are essential as roost sites. This situation has arisen over a long period of time as tree cover and availability of caves, which would have provided natural roost sites, have become scarce and bat species adapted to use built structures in much the same way that swifts, swallows and house martins have.
Many bats use buildings for roosting, and it is vital for the future of our bat populations that any building or maintenance work takes bats into account from the outset.
Some species of fauna and flora are protected by law. Some other species need conservation action through policies in local development documents, and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Act requirements are especially relevant for them. The legislation gives backing to planning policies for nature conservation. In the UK there is the following guidance from government on how planning officers should take nature conservation matters into account:
- PPS9 Biodiversity and Geological conservation, together with its ODPM Circular 06/2005 and its Guide to Good Practice.
PPS9 states that ‘Many individual wildlife species receive statutory protection under a range of legislative provisions, and specific policies in respect of these species should not be included in local development documents.’
The ODPM Circular 06/2005, shows how planning officers should deal with protected species:
- The presence of a protected species is a material consideration when considering a proposal that, if carried out, would be likely to result in harm to the species or its habitat.
- Local Planning Authorities should advise developers that they must comply with any statutory species protection issues affecting the site.
- The presence and extent to which protected species will be affected must be established before planning permission is granted.
- Any measures necessary to protect the species should be conditioned/planning obligations used, before the permission is granted. Conditions can also be placed on a permission in order to prevent development proceeding without a Habitats Regulations Licence.
Where there is a reasonable likelihood of bats being present and affected by development, a bat survey should be carried out and its findings be considered in the determination of the application.
By taking bats into account prior to starting work it will:
- Minimise any costs and delays
- Help to avoid disturbing bats or their roosts, which means avoiding the risk of prosecution and helping to conserve an important protected species