Did you know that the UK has 18 known species of bat and that they are a protected throughout Great Britain and Europe? The UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and EU Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 lists protected bats among other fauna and flora. It is, therefore, a criminal offense to harm or disturb bats or their habitat. Natural England and The Bat Conservation Trust provide support, guidance and licensing towards their protection.
National and local planning policy include guidance towards the protection and enhancement of all biodiversity. Town planners are required to consider any legally protected species as a material consideration when assessing development proposal that may harm a protected species or its habitat.
Professional ecologists can be employed to help develop design proposals for the built environment and are able to provide the necessary support for planning applications through survey and mitigation.
Proper assessment of existing buildings and other potential habitats for bats is crucial in design development prior to submitting a planning application. For bats, initial assessment can take place at any time of the year. A trained ecologist will look for key signs of bat habitation in a building, such as tile hanging, loose leadwork and flashings (particularly around chimneys), small cracks & openings and not to mention bat droppings. However, if bats are found to use existing buildings, further survey work is required to detect their emergence and activity in and around a building. These emergence surveys can only take place when bats are out of hibernation and flying around; between May – September only.
Certain species of bats also live in trees and the cutting down of a tree could be causing harm to a bats habitat or the bat itself. Whilst arboricultural work is not directly policed in regard to bat protection, seeking ecological advice before removing a tree may be prudent and considerate.
The presence of bats within an existing building is by no means a show stopper to development. With the right professional support of an ecologist the design can be taken forward coupled with appropriate mitigation, through the introduction of suitable bat habitation devices and details. This information will be produced by the ecologist and submitted as a mitigation report with any planning application. This mitigation report is also utilised to obtain a licence from Natural England enabling controlled works towards the completion of the proposed development with the protection of the bats in mind.
Early assessment will have significant benefits to a development project as it will enable the right ecology work to be carried out at the right time and it will allow the design to be taken in the right direction. As architects we have a duty of care to advise our clients appropriately and to be aware of the basic principles in bat habitation potential. With careful design and collaboration with a professional ecologist bat mitigation can be incorporated into beautiful design without being obvious. The cladding on our Curvey Oak project has bat boxes and roosts designed into the elevation seamlessly … can you spot them?