Why do I need a bat survey?
Bats and their roosting sites are fully protected by UK and European law and it is an offence to kill, injure, capture or disturb them or to damage, destroy or obstruct their roost sites. It follows then that if any development might affect a building or site which may have any bat species present that a survey by an expert and fully licenced bat surveyor is required. A majority of older properties are very likely to be used by bats and many modern properties are also used.
If an ecologist finds a protected species will that stop me developing my site – what happens next?
The simple answer is no, but you will have to include within the development plans detailed mitigation for the species involved. Ecologists will work with developers, their architects and planning ecologists and Natural Resources Wales to design practical and cost effective mitigation and ensure that the licensing process which would have to be done is as seamless as possible.
Why are some species protected and not others?
It’s not quite true to say some species are not protected, but some are more rigorously protected by a specific law which makes it a criminal offence to kill them or to destroy their habitat. The species which are specially protected are named in the European and UK Acts eg. Bats, and are generally species which are regarded as most at risk because of declining populations. To disturb these species requires land owners and developers to obtain a license and usually to have a detailed mitigation plan in place before any work on the land or buildings starts. Further information on which plant and animal species are protected under European law can be found on Natural Resources Wales website.
Once surveys have been done what happens next?
The ecologist responsible will write a detailed report in a format which meets the needs of planners, architects and Natural Resources Wales. This will advise the planners as to the likely ecological impacts allowing their ecologist to decide as to whether any further work is required or whether any further mitigation may be required. The recommendations in the report may be used to condition the planning application, so that your development can proceed but under the conditions set out by the ecology survey findings. It is highly advisable to involve the ecologists in the development design stage so that reports can address mitigation measures early and avoid later delays and complications.
How do I get a licence if a protected species is found?
Developments which might affect European Protected Species (all bats, Dormice, Great Crested Newts and Otters) and some UK protected species (e.g. Badger and Water Vole) are likely to require the developer to obtain a Licence which allows activities to take place which would otherwise be illegal. The procedure requires a detailed Method Statement to be prepared. This clearly identifies what activities are to be licenced to minimise the risk to protected species and also states the agreed mitigation strategy. This is supported by a licence application form, most of which has to be completed by a specially trained Ecologist who holds a licence to work with that species, although the actual licence will be in the name of the owner/developer. None of this can happen until planning approval has been granted, but the two processes are very closely linked so that it is vital for developers, architects and ecologists to work closely together.
What are the rarest bats around here – am I likely to see one?
West Wales is one of the key UK strongholds of the rare Greater Horseshoe Bat and a part of south Pembrokeshire is designated a Special Protection Area for these and other species of bats. Generally it is hard to identify bats without special equipment and it is unlikely that you would see one of the rarer species unless guided by an expert.
Do you take students and trainees?
From time to time we are approached by students or individuals wishing to improve their knowledge, initiate a project to support a degree or enter the employment world of ecology. We may be able to provide some guidance and put them in touch with ecologists who are invariably helpful and may, at times, be able to provide some valuable field experience. Our experience, however, is that the somewhat disruptive and unsociable work hours and the lack of consistency in work demands (sometimes long hours in front of a computer rather than doing practical survey work) is not really useful to a student looking for a project but is very valuable to someone who wishes to gain real experience of this work. Generally ecologists are unable to offer any remuneration in such situations.
If your query is not covered here please contact us and we will do our best to help.