All British species of bats and their places of shelter are protected under UK and European law. It is an offence to kill, injure or disturb a bat or to damage or obstruct access to a place used for shelter or protection by bats. A European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) is therefore required to lawfully undertake development works to a building that is a confirmed bat roost and would otherwise trigger an offence.
Ecosulis is working on a number of sites which require an EPSL licence from Natural England due to the presence of roosting bats. A development bat licence has recently been secured for remediation works to a listed building in Marlborough, where a confirmed brown long-eared maternity roost is present. Ecosulis has been undertaking bat surveys at the site since 2006, assessing the buildings suitability to support roosting bats and undertaking dusk emergence and dawn swarming surveys. Renovation works are currently being undertaken under the EPSL and guidance from Ecosulis on the appropriate level of mitigation and monitoring. Mitigation works include the provision of alternative roosting features in the form of bat boxes, careful timing of works to avoid hibernating and breeding bats, supervision of works by a licensed bat worker and reinstatement of the existing roof space to ensure that the current bat roosting opportunities are available in spring 2011. Ecosulis will be undertaking monitoring throughout the renovation works and for two years post completion of the works.
Ecosulis is also working on a site in Bristol, which supports at least six species of roosting bats including a maternity and hibernation colony of rare lesser horseshoe bats. Ecosulis has been working on the site since 2007, and are currently planning a hibernation bat survey in December 2010. Ecosulis has obtained an EPSL that has enabled asbestos remediation works to be undertaken and to enable the future renovation of the building. Monitoring to date has shown that all species of bats continue to use the roost despite the works undertaken, which is a great success.
Ecosulis is managing nine active bat licences and is undertaking long-term monitoring associated with a further six licences issued by Natural England or the Welsh Assembly.
In addition to licensing requirements, the presence of bats is a material consideration at planning (Planning Policy Statement 9 in addition to the legislation). Recent case law (R v Cheshire East Borough Council, 2009) has resulted in Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) requiring full surveys and detailed mitigation proposals to be provided in advance of planning permission being granted. When determining planning applications, LPA’s must be satisfied that the three derogation tests within the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 are fully met. The three tests are that:
- The consented operation must be for "preserving public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of overriding public interest including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment";
- There must be "no satisfactory alternative"; and
- The action authorised "will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range".