Developers have a matter of weeks left to identify the presence of bats at earmarked sites, or risk delays to their plans, ecology experts at Harris Lamb have warned.

The business’ Environment team is also warning developers that they could face more than delays if they disregard the presence of bats in the vicinity of their sites: Bats are protected by law and individuals can face unlimited fines and up to six months imprisonment for failing to protect bats.

Josh Randhawa, assistant ecologist for the business, said that with all 18 species of bat in the UK being legally protected from killing and injuring, construction schedules could suffer lengthy setbacks if developers did not commission the necessary surveys within the window for action.

“Bats use buildings, trees and other structures for roosting, and their roosts are protected from disturbance and destruction, even if a bat is not present within it. The survey window began back in May, and ends this month, so should developers suspect that any buildings or trees at a site has bat roost potential, or a confirmed roost, the team needs to be undertaking its first activity survey next week to complete the survey process within the window.

 “There are hefty penalties for those who don’t comply – six months’ imprisonment and/or unlimited fines can be imposed – so in order to avoid committing an offence, surveys should ideally have been planned in advance of any works that could affect bats or their roosts, but for those who have left it until now, time is of the essence,” he said.

Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)

Ecologists have to follow strict, industry standard guidance which dictate when and how many bat surveys are required. If there is potential of bats being present within trees, buildings or structures on site, a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) will be required to identify any potential roosting features.  If roosting features are identified then nocturnal activity surveys are required, the majority of which need to be concluded before the end of August.

Josh added: “Should bat habitation be detected, our team will work with clients to find solutions, including planning works while bats are absent from the roost and ensuring they are not altered, obtaining a European Protected Species Mitigation Licence (EPSML) or Bat Mitigation Class Licence (BMCL) to get authorisation to conduct work and relocate the bats to new roost sites.

“The crucial thing is to take the necessary steps now to avoid having such plans delayed until 2021 and beyond.”

For support and guidance, contact Josh on 

Group of Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)