The new Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) guidelines have been published. The new guidelines, entitled ‘Bat Surveys – Good Practice Guidelines’ provide professional advice regarding bat survey effort, best practice, pre-planning considerations, and mitigation. The guidelines also provide specific advice regarding bat surveys associated with wind farm projects.
The principle of the need for bat surveys to inform planning and mitigation for development projects has remained consistent with previous guidelines. Bat surveys may be required for a range of activities to inform planning, including building demolition, building renovation, tree felling and development affecting foraging and commuting routes. Under current planning policy, ‘where there is a reasonable likelihood of bats being present and being affected by the development surveys must be carried out before planning permission is considered’. This means that bat surveys are unlikely to be conditioned at the planning stage. Bat surveys can only be undertaken when bats are active, between May and August (September subject to suitable weather), therefore significant delays could result if bat surveys are not undertaken in advance of planning.
The guidelines provide recommendations relating to survey effort. The number of emergence/swarming surveys recommended range between three emergence and/or swarming surveys for buildings with high potential to one emergence/swarming survey for buildings with low potential. The guidelines also provide recommendations of activity survey effort, which is related to the size of the site and quality of habitats present.
The guidelines incorporate guidance relating to large infrastructure projects and wind farms. The guidelines advise that the likely scale of the impacts associated with this scheme should inform the survey effort and scope. Bat survey effort should therefore be proportionate with the scheme, local records and scale of suitable habitats affected.
The new Biodiversity Planning Toolkit has also recently launched, which includes an interactive bat protocol tool. This tool provides general advice regarding bat survey effort to inform planning and the need for a European Protected Species licence.