Bat Survey FAQ
I am a bat survey consultant based in Belper, Derbyshire and I cover the East Midlands and M1 Corridor
Here are answers to some common questions about bat surveys.
Let me know if there are other questions you’d like me to add here.
Bat surveys cost from £399 (no VAT) if I do them for you. I used to have a fixed price, but I’ve started to cover a wider geographic area and it’s unfair to charge clients on my doorstep the same as I need to if I’m travelling across the country. £399 covers my time on site, and travel time and mileage within Derbyshire. Beyond that I add a little to cover the additional time spent in the bat mobile.
It is difficult to tell how much other consultants charge. The lowest I’ve seen £150 + VAT, but that consultant’s website says in small print “The total cost may vary depending on location of your project” (i. e. mileage and travel time). so I assume that £150 (£180 with VAT) only covers the time on site. Renovate Me (a renovation blog) says to expect to pay £500 + VAT (£600 inclusive).
You may need a bat survey to support a planning application if your project is going to damage structures (like buildings or trees) that bats could roost in. Bats can roost in a surprising range of structures, including domestic houses in urban environments. Some councils will ask for a bat survey for any project that will effect a roof, others will only ask if it is higher risk – e. g. near habitats like water or woodland. Don’t forget that as well as carrying out a survey to satisfy planning, you may want to get a bat survey to protect yourself legally. Bats and their roosts are protected, and impacting them may put you on the wrong side of the law, even if you didn’t need a bat survey for planning.
The short answer is no, bats are unlikely to stop a planning application. Bats are protected in the planning system and bats and their roosts are legally protected, but this doesn’t mean that if you have bats that you can’t get planning permission. Some projects won’t have an impact on bats, and if they will be affected, we can look at reducing those impacts (i. e. avoiding harming bats) or compensating (i. e. replacing lost habitat).
You can get a licence from Natural England that allows you to destroy a roost or disturb bats. Only in very rare circumstances will bats stop a planning application, but slight modifications of the scheme or timing may be required.
I always provide our bat reports on the same day as the survey. Typically, I spend an hour or two before the survey getting maps, location references and the desk study completed, then after the survey I’ll spend a few hours writing up notes and making sure that I’ve included the most useful advice for you.
A Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA)is an initial survey of a building, tree or other structure for bats. All species of bat in Britain are legally protected and need to be considered in planning applications.
The survey will assess the suitability of the structure for supporting bat roosts, so that you and the local authority can know if you need additional work to look for bats, or need any mitigation measures to avoid harm to bats.
This survey is useful for any project that involves demolition or modification of a structure that may support bat roosts. Bats are able to roost in a surprising range of man-made structures and local authorities are likely to require a bat survey for planning applications which involve work on barns, bridges, churches and other historic buildings, but also modern houses, especially those close to woodland or water.
A Natural England licensed bat roost surveyor (that’s me, Jo Pedder – hello!) will carry out a Preliminary Roost Assessment to Bat Conservation Trust Guidelines (the method your planning authority will expect).
I will examine the outside of the property using binoculars and high powered torches and document our findings with photos. I will also look for evidence of bats inside the property – this will include looking at upstairs windows from the inside to see if there are bat droppings on the sills, and entering lofts and cellars as far as is safe to do so. I will bring our own ladders to allow this. I also carry endoscopes in our bat survey kit, so I can look into crevices for the presence of bats.
If bat droppings are found, I may collect samples and store them for you in case you want to send them for DNA analysis later. I can recommend a local lab who can do this for you.
I will also take notes about nesting birds, as Local Authorities will often ask for this.
The structure will be assessed as being of negligible, low, moderate or high suitability for roosting bats.
The report will include the methods used, evidence gathered and the assessment of roost suitability. I will also make recommendations for further evening surveys (only if required), and enhancement of the proposal for bats in line with national planning policy.
The report will be written in line with best practice (British Standard 4200 2013, CIEEM Guidelines for Ecological Report Writing, and Bat Conservation Trust Bat Survey Guidelines for Professional Ecologists) which will be expected by your local planning authority.
I will provide the report on the same day as the survey.
*A standard building may include a residential house, barn or workshop.
More information needed? Why not read the CIEEM guide for householders having bat surveys here.
Don’t worry, if I find bats it doesn’t mean the end of your project. Our Natural England licensed ecologists will be able to guide your on the next steps.
What I are actually looking for is bats, evidence of bats (such as feeding signs, droppings or fur staining), and suitable features for bats, like potential access points into crevices and cavities in the structure.
Many people think that if they have a bat roost, they will see bats hanging upside down in their loft. This isn’t the case for many species of bat. In fact in the east midlands, I’d only expect brown long-eared bats to do this.
The majority of bats that roost in buildings are pipistrelles. These species tend to roost in small crevices. Favourite spots include behind weatherboarding, under roof tiles or hanging tiles or in the wall cavity.
The survey report will clearly state how suitable the building is for bats, as either
or whether there is a confirmed bat roost present.
If the structure is assessed as being of low, moderate or high suitability for roosting bats, I usually need to recommend emergence surveys where ecologists will watch for bats in the evening or at dawn to confirm whether bats are present, which species there are and what type of roost it is.
All British bats are European protected species – that is they are protected from harm, and their roosts are also protected. This also means that in order to approve your planning application, the local planning authority will need to consider impacts on bats (they have a legal duty to do this). This usually means that before planning permission is granted, the planners will want to see the results of the emergency survey, so that they have all of the information available.
There are licences available from Natural England to allow works that affect bat roosts, and the licence application will include mitigation measures, such as taking care while stripping the roof and putting up bat boxes in the new scheme. All in all, finding bats can mean additional costs or delays, but managed well, these shouldn’t be too significant. It is incredibly rare for bats to prevent a planning application completely.
Bat surveys for planning applications are typically completed by professionals with a relevant degree, membership of a recognised association (such as CIEEM), are registered with Natural England to use a bat survey licence and have several years’ experience as a consultant ecologist.
www.bat-surveyor.co.uk can complete your bat survey if it is in Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Cheshire East, Derby, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Luton, Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Staffordshire, or Stoke-on-Trent.
A bat survey will take between one hour and half a day. This depends on the size of the site, the complexity of the buildings and trees being surveyed and what I find. Be wary of a surveyor that is only with you for less than an hour – they can’t be doing a thorough job. If they aren’t doing a thorough job, they are probably relying on being able to recommend further surveys rather than spending time scoping out further work.