Protection of bats and other animals
The way we live and work has reduced the native wildlife of our land to such an extent that some species are near extinction. We need to protect our wildlife, or risk losing it forever, and there are laws to help us. Today, proposed development of land must take the presence of wildlife into account. Wildlife legislation applies to certain animals, plants and other living things (the species) and where they live (the habitat). However, the laws are complicated and it can be difficult for a developer to know how best to proceed.
Some species - the European protected species (EPS) are protected by European law as rewritten into domestic legislation1. Of particular interest in our area are bats (all species), dormice and great crested newts. Other species may have protection under British law. For instance, while some reptiles and their habitats are fully protected as EPS, other reptiles are simply protected from sale, injury or killing2 (intentional or reckless3).
The most important areas of different habitats are now protected by law and Local Plan designations. However, it is recognised that we should be doing more, so Dover District Council is working with partners on the Kent Biodiversity Action Plan that identifies targets for increasing habitats, generally. Land development can and will be expected to help us achieve some of those targets.
EPS and wildlife crime
It is an offence to deliberately capture, kill, or disturb a wild animal of an EPS, to take or destroy the eggs of such an animal, or to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal.
Development and EPS
Planning authorities have a general duty towards EPS and we know that development, whether it is a small house extension or a large industrial estate, could adversely affect such an animal, its eggs, and its breeding or resting site. As more is learnt about EPS and the places they use, so developers need to consider whether they may be using their sites and whether they could be affected by development. If the local planning authority considers that information on EPS is needed but none is provided, planning permission may be refused.
There are only a few EPS in our district. Others either do not occur here or are on protected sites, such as nature reserves. Of those we must consider, bats are the most frequently encountered, as they often use buildings or trees for roosts. The remainder of this leaflet will refer to bats, but the general principles would apply to other EPS that might be encountered on development sites in the district.
Do bats prevent development?
Except in very rare circumstances, the presence of bats, or other EPS, is unlikely to prevent development. Sadly, however, it appears that 2/3rds of reported crime in respect of bats occurs during building and development work. We now know about some of the requirements of different bat species and we may be able to build them ‘living spaces’ in developments. If bats already exist on a site, the effects of development may be mitigated by designing in roosting and feeding opportunities for them.
How to tell if bats use a site
This is difficult: surveys are the surest way of telling, either through direct observation or by searching for evidence of bat presence. Bat roosts are very important, particularly maternity and hibernation roosts. These tend to be communal and disturbance to one could cause local extinction of the species. Enough is known about these roosts that the following structures should always be surveyed if redevelopment of them is being considered:
- All barns and other timber framed buildings with exposed wooden beams or under slate or Kent peg tile roofs.
- All tunnels, mines, ice-houses, military fortifications, air raid shelters and similar subterranean structures.
- All bridges.
- All old trees with loose bark, or cavities, particularly in or near hedgerows, woodland or water should be surveyed if pruning or felling is planned.
However, it is important to remain alert in other circumstances. For instance, pipistrelle bats often roost in modern buildings, even flat roof extensions. If your work involves demolition of any substantial structure, or breaking into roof voids in buildings, particularly those near extensive areas of vegetation or water, do seek advice.
If you find bats, stop work immediately and contact Batline - 08451 300228
Who surveys a site for bats?
The survey must be carried out by a competent person, preferably licensed by English Nature as a roost visitor. The surveyor will be aware of the law in respect of EPS and be able to provide you with the information that can help you to decide whether to pursue your project, or revise it. The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management holds lists of recognised EPS surveyors.
Bats are present - what now?
The bat presence may be insignificant, or it may have profound effect on how your project moves forward. Your bat surveyor should indicate whether you are likely to need a licence from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to disturb the bats or a roost.
A licence and obtaining one
A licence is simply a government permission to undertake what would otherwise be an unlawful activity, and it is obtained from Defra. Defra will not issue a licence unless certain criteria have been met that ensure that the local bat population is not unduly threatened: it will consult English Nature and, if your project requires planning permission, the local planning authority. EPS legislation requires strong planning policy evidence to support a licence request, or the licence may not be granted. To go ahead with the project would then be illegal. The local authority may also refuse planning permission under its general duty toward protecting EPS. If you submit a survey with your planning application it could save you time and money.
- English Nature (Kent Team): 01233 812525
The Government Agency with responsibility for wildlife in England gives advice on protected species and habitats.
- Defra: 08459 33557
The Government Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issues licences for disturbing European Protected Species.
- The Kent Wildlife Trust: 01622 662012
- A voluntary organisation that designates land of County importance for wildlife and lobbies on behalf of wildlife.
- Bat Conservation Trust: 08451 300228
Specialist Voluntary Groups
These record all aspects of the wildlife they specialise in and may be able to offer advice.
For general wildlife enquiries contact the Senior Ecologist, Dover District Council
Tel: 01304 872481