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Bats in the belfry?

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Friday 20 August 2010 3.04pm
I've sent them an email explaining the situation with a link to this and the All Hallow's thread.
Friday 20 August 2010 5.33pm
Well done Tolstoy, I put a similar comment on the All Hallows thread but did not follow it up.
Monday 23 August 2010 3.02pm
Response from the Bat folk (with apologies for length):

Thank you for contacting the Bat Conservation Trust to inform us of bats being threatened by a development. As we are a small charity we cannot get involved in every case, but we can provide advice, and so we rely on concerned residents to bring bats to the attention of planning authorities and developers in these situations. What we suggest is that you write a letter to the local planning authority and follow this up with a phone call. I hope that the following information (also see attachment) will be of help when composing such a letter.


Laws relating to bats



In England and Wales bats and their roosts receive protection under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2010 (as amended), and further protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000). In Scotland legal protection for bats and roosts is provided by The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2010, and in Northern Ireland legal protection is provided under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations Northern Ireland (as amended most recently in 2007). A roost is defined as any place that a wild bat uses for shelter or protection, and the roost is protected whether bats are present in it or not. In all four countries there is also government planning policy and guidance for protected species.


What can we do if there is a development proposal that will affect a bat roost?



If you suspect that bats are present on the site, or if you know the roost is in any structure subject to planning procedures, e.g. dwelling house, church, barn, tree, you should inform the local planning authority during the period of public consultation. They should then request the owner/developer to commission a bat survey by a suitably qualified bat expert, and will also consult with the local Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO) office (Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency depending upon country).



(If planning permission is not required (e.g. a re-roofing) then you should speak to the householder or contractor concerned, advising them that bats are protected by law, and that they should contact the Bat Conservation Trust (0845 1300 228). It is worth letting them know that the earlier they seek advice on the issue, the less disruption there will be to their plans (and that if they act early enough there may not be any.)



The information from the bat survey should be used to inform the planning decision that is made. You are entitled to see the bat survey under the Freedom of Information Act. If you are unhappy with the survey, you can read our guidelines for bat survey good practice, which is available to download from the Publications section on our website www.bats.org.uk (Publications > Professional Guidelines > Bat Surveys - Good Practice Guidelines) and then put your concerns in writing to the council.


If bats or the roost will be affected by the proposal, and planning permission is to be granted, a condition should be placed on the decision notice requiring the developer to apply for and obtain a Habitats Regulations licence before work commences.



The owner/developer will then need to obtain a Habitats Regulations licence from the government licensing department before development commences. This will be Natural England in England, the Scottish Government in Scotland, the Assembly Government in Wales, or the Department of Environment and Heritage (Northern Ireland). The Habitats Regulations licence must be in the name of the owner/developer, but will need input and knowledge from the bat expert for method statements and mitigation; it will probably contain much of the information gathered during the bat survey undertaken prior to permission being granted.



The licence will state certain conditions, e.g. timing and mitigation. If you suspect that a developer is contravening the conditions of the licence, try to check the conditions of the licence with the body that issued it (this varies depending upon the country, see above) and alert the local planning office. You may need to contact your local SNCO (see above). Then inform the Police Wildlife Crime Officer in your police constabulary, mentioning ‘Operation Bat'. (If the Wildlife Crime Officer is unable to take your call, it doesn't matter, still report it, mentioning Operation Bat, and request a reference number). Please also report any licence contraventions to us here at BCT.



What can we do if the proposal is in an area where we have seen bats flying?



Again, you should contact the local planning authority to find out whether a bat survey has been carried out to support the planning application. If a survey has not been carried out then you are within your rights to request that one is carried out as outlined above. Tracking down a bat roost is a tricky job and difficult for those who do not have much experience of bats, so it is sufficient to inform the planning authority that you have seen bats in the area; you do not necessarily have to know where they are roosting, although it is helpful if you do because the roost needs protecting. The planning authority should then request that the developers commission a bat survey by an environmental consultant to see if any bats or roosts might be affected. Bats hibernate between October and April (depending on the weather), so a survey for bat activity at this time of year will not be appropriate; field surveys should be carried out over the summer months.



If the proposal will affect a bat roost, the planning authority must consult with their local statutory nature conservation organisation. If the proposal will affect foraging and commuting habitat then linear features such as tree lines should be retained and compensatory planting should be considered wherever possible.



You could also contact your local bat group for information about bats in the area, especially with regard to recorded bat roosts and bat sightings in the county. Their details can be found at:-



http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/local_bat_groups.html



I hope this information will be useful. If you would like any further clarification please call the Bat Conservation Trust on 0845 1300 228.
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