Nocturnal bat survey results - are we being taken for a ride?!

(11 Posts)
Flymeaway4 Sun 28-Jun-20 19:01:46

We’re in the process of getting planning permission and listed building consent for the renovation of our grade II listed farmhouse in Gloucestershire. It’s completely dilapidated, unliveable and the roof/walls have many holes and structural issues, hence the requirement for nocturnal bat surveys.

Given the fact it’s not been lived in for 15yrs and the many available entrances for bats, we were expecting the worst, but have been pleasantly surprised. We had an audio survey over 5 consecutive nights, where the ecologist said he was expecting to hear 800+ bat calls, but it only picked up around 50. We then had 3 nocturnal visual surveys spaced 2 weeks apart, where between 4 and 12 bats were spotted each night, all common species and mostly ‘commuting’ (which I think just means they flew nearby) or foraging in the back garden. Over the 3 nights a total of 4 bats were seen either entering or emerging from the property, all common species. So all good news and over the phone the ecologist implied it would require minimal intervention; bat licence, which he said is a legal requirement given they saw even 1 bat enter the building, a temporary bat box in a tree during building work and a few bat tiles.

However, we’ve now had his final report and there seems to be a lot more in there than he implied over the phone, all of which will involve him visiting the property for many hours to ‘supervise’:
- bat licence (application fee appears to be £500, but he’d charge c.£2000; no idea if there is more to it than simply competing the form and attaching this report, but I’d hope so for £1500! Does anyone know?)
- another survey immediately prior to construction (ok, I can maybe understand this, something could change between now and then, but equally I thought the survey results were meant to be valid for a year, how much more do we need?!)
- all contractors must be briefed by the ecologist before works commence
- the roofing work will need to be supervised by a licensed ecologist, whilst also recommending it is done slowly by hand. This could take weeks!

All this for 4 common bats! I love bats, I love all animals in fact and we’re quite happy to accommodate them, but this seems a bit much to me. Anyone got any experience? Is this normal for so few bats and common ones at that?

He also wrote at the end that he found several disused and degraded birds nests in the property (I know what he means, an old one has fallen down the chimney), but there was no evidence of recent use. Despite this, he recommended that construction work only take place outside of their nesting season (so no work between Feb and Aug!) unless we have another survey done. Seems excessive again, no?

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Slightlydustcovered Sun 28-Jun-20 23:04:34

Hi, didn't want to read and run. We had to have surveys for our planning permission ( bog standard semi) but we back on to woodlands. So I thought I would share our experience. All was fine to start. We had our initial survey £500 no bats or evidence. Fab game over you would think .. no despite no bats or evidence we were then require to do further surveys, dawn and dusk with cameras audio etc. As and I quote there was "still potential" for bats to enter the site. Well these surveys were all done and despite loads of activity in our garden and wood there was nothing in the house. We were then asked to supply a construction action plan to builders just incase they found the bats that the may have missed. So £3k and 16 weeks later the planning department agreed we don't have bats and granted planning. I work in an environment field and went in to this fully supportive of the system. I sit here now cross that this money making scheme just encourages people to do the wrong thing. And I don't blame them after our experience. So I wish you luck not sure I helped. You have had a good outcome as you haven't found any of the rare ones or a maternity roost, so hopefully you will get through with minimal damage to bats and your wallet

Flymeaway4 Mon 29-Jun-20 11:20:06

Thanks for getting back to me. I’m sharing your frustration, it seems to me that they would never say there’s definitely no bats and no potential, as they’re doing themselves out of a further job! I’d always heard that bats can make things expensive and time consuming, I guess I didn’t realise so few bats could cause such a big issue.

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Slightlydustcovered Mon 29-Jun-20 12:25:51

Yes and for us we never even had a single bat. Although I do like the report that tells me about all the bat species in the garden. Every cloud has a silver lining.

crosstalk Mon 29-Jun-20 13:16:16

Could you contact the bat society to ask what you'd get and what the bat licence involves?

ICouldHaveCheckedFirst Mon 29-Jun-20 14:04:26

Bats are a protected species. Their are many constraints around ensuring their safety. The Bay Society can expand. Remember they are on the side of the bats!

And yes there are laws about disturbing nesting birds too. Affects all construction projects.

Flymeaway4 Mon 29-Jun-20 14:42:07

I do understand that and I don’t dispute it, but equally this feels to me more like he’s trying to justify more work for himself. The council will go along with whatever he says, so it’s in his best interest to maximise his work. With any trade you get good guys and bad guys, I’m just trying to work out, from the experience of others, whether what he’s requiring is necessary legally or if he’s simply generating more work for himself because he can.

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crosstalk Mon 29-Jun-20 14:45:44

I wonder about these surveys too especially with some species like pips and greater horseshoe - they can do all the surveys to protect the species but can they insist you don't have cats subsequently

squareofthehypotepotenuse Mon 29-Jun-20 16:09:22

My husband is an ecologist (not England though). He says all it takes is one bat recorded in a property on a survey to need the licence to disturb....all bats are protected, common or not!
The industry is very regulated - if your ecologist is “adding” work fraudulently he risks losing his personal license, getting blacklisted and therefore his business. It takes many years training and experience to get protected species licences and ecology is not an especially well paid field, most folk really do it for the love of fluffy and flappy things.

Slightlydustcovered Mon 29-Jun-20 16:39:17

I think what bugs me a little bit is we did it properly. We were trying to do the right thing which is why we raised it initially. Yet if you convert or extend, knock down an outhouse, replace your roof, under permitted development or just maintenance you dont need to do the checks. Even the house with an identical extension spec. got planning 12 months ago without a survey and is actually closer to the woods than we are. This is according to the council only due to different planning officers. Subsequently I know of people who have disturbed bats under these conditions. So it just seems that it's so extreme for one, not another. What I don't understand is why you need so many surveys. We had 3 to prove there were no bats. Would the first 2 not have been sufficient? And in the same breath now op has bats why survey more just put in the measures for protection during the build.
I think op you will have to roll with it. I wish you luck and would love to know what type of bats you have when you get the next set of surveys done.

Flymeaway4 Mon 29-Jun-20 17:24:35

I suspect you may be right Square, but we’ve asked our planning consultant as well. I guess it’s partly because the difference between what he indicated we’d need over the phone and what’s in the report, in terms of cost to us, could be huge! It also doesn’t help that one paragraph of the report has clearly been copied/pasted as it references another property name, so it’s making us wonder what else he may have copied over incorrectly!

We had the initial survey done back in November and the 3 nocturnal surveys done between mid May and mid a June. Over the 3 nights they found common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, noctule and myotis. Only the common pipistrelle were seen entering the house, the rest were commuting/foraging.

That’s another thing that bugs me too, how can they be so far apart within the same council, they probably work on desks opposite one another! It’s just so subjective, it’s really just fingers crossed on submission!

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