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Bats! What I've Learned...


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#1 sarahsouthwest

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 06:41 PM

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Thought I'd put down some of the most important/surprising points I found dealing with bats in our chapel conversion...

The minimum time it takes for Natural England to look at an application for a licence is 3-4 months - 2 months for them to consider it, 1-2 months to get back in touch with you. They don't refuse applications, just ask for more information. If they ask for more information, it's another 3-4 month cycle at the end of which they won't refuse, just ask for more information...

You will almost certainly need a new bat survey to accompany your licence. Our previous survey was 18 months old, and we were on the border line of needing a new one.

The upside is that if you go ahead and get a new bat survey done, Natural England won't return your application asking for a new survey.

The downside is timing. You can only have a bat survey done when the bats are out and about ie between April/May and September/October.

Timing generally can be an issue. Consult the ecologist sooner rather than later in case you need a new survey/licence etc - we very nearly got caught out by this, and it was only because our building had suffered in last winter's storms and was becoming dangerous that we were able to get on with our building plans.

Your application comprises of several parts, one of which must be done by an ecologist (the method statement), one of which - the reasoned statement - can be done by you or a different consultant. Natural England publish lots of info on how to complete the reasoned statement, but do so in such convoluted jargon-filled language that you may feel you need to employ a consultant to translate. Worse, there are hardly any examples to be found via Google.

Ecologists vary in their attitude. We found some were a bit confrontational and antagonistic, others were more laid back. I spoke to one it wouldn't be too far a stretch to describe as fanatical (luckily, not working on our build). With hindsight, I'd have shopped around a bit to find the more laid back kind.

The bureaucrats have created a system that doesn't really work with the real world. It can lead to problems eg our scaffolder told me he was having to go to a NT property and take down the scaffolding each night so the bats could have unimpeded access to the roof, then return first thing to put the scaffolding up so the builders could get on with the work during the day. Our first mitigation statement was like asking us to make an omelette without breaking the eggs. We're currently working under the third mitigation statement for the property.

It's worth looking at Natural England's mitigation guidelines. http://www.naturalen...ecies/bats.aspx It definitely helped to know what the minimum and ideal requirements were, both for designing our build to accommodate the bats and for justifying what we were hoping to do to the ecologist.

It's expensive. The original report/survey/mitigation statement required by planning cost the owner c£2000, and we have paid another £2000 on top - although luckily, in the end we didn't have to have another survey or get a licence due to the building's condition. The licence would have cost c£3000 (including another survey) with me writing the reasoned statement.

The bureaucracy has meant that some people take extreme - and illegal - steps against bats, which is a pity. I heard of farmers taking the roof off barns before applying for permission (another chapel near us went for auction recently without a roof but Google earth shows it was in tact last year), hoovering lofts and beams to eliminate any signs of bat presence, putting up floodlights, even bringing in cats.

It's a real shame, as the bat population is under threat and they are losing habitat. And they are fascinating creatures! We've ended up with exactly the design we wanted, which also allows our bats their space, so having bats doesn't have to be a disaster.

One of ours (and before anyone can say it, it's being handled by a licenced ecologist, not me).

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#2 joiner

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 08:09 PM

A mate advised a friend of his to contact me because the person neighbouring his site had reported bats in the bungalow he wanted to demolish and needed to know how that affected him.

He couldn't understand why I couldn't stop laughing when he suggested "surely they'll just find somewhere else to live."

Took 12 months before he could get his build started.

#3 Triassic

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Posted 25 July 2014 - 04:46 PM

We were lucky, our bat survey found numerous bats flying about, but none roosting in our soon to be demolished bungalow.. phew!

We were lucky, our team were the practical sort and had a 'we can get this sorted' approach.

#4 sarahsouthwest

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Posted 25 July 2014 - 04:53 PM

Only 3 were seen going in and out of the chapel during the two month bat survey. 3! It was considered to be a temporary roost, sort of where stop-outs might spend the day before heading back to the main roost further down the lane. If it had been a permanent roost, or a maternity roost, the process would have been harder - and taken longer.

#5 declan52

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Posted 25 July 2014 - 05:05 PM

My mum had over 300 nesting in the soffit of her house. Took over 2 months to get them out. Guys came out and put what looked like black bin bags over the hole so it makes it harder to get back in to the nest.

#6 joiner

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Posted 25 July 2014 - 05:30 PM

We have dozens of them here. We have three tents in the (large) roof space in which to store stuff because the bat pee and poo is pretty nasty stuff.

#7 tracyandstewart

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Posted 25 July 2014 - 07:50 PM

If there are bats roosting in a building to be demolished, can you move them on with permission etc? Or does it mean you can't demolish at all?



#8 joiner

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 08:57 AM

You can demolish and then provide an "approved" nesting facility for them in the roof of the new building. You can find specifications for the nesting requirements of different bats here...

http://www.bats.org...._with_bats.html

Edited by joiner, 26 July 2014 - 08:58 AM.


#9 joiner

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 09:02 AM

Oh, and take note of 1.5 in this...

http://www.naturalen..._tcm6-21717.pdf

...explains why bat surveys can take so long.

Edited by joiner, 26 July 2014 - 09:45 AM.
Typo. Yup, even me!!


#10 sarahsouthwest

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 09:43 AM

It's illegal to handle or move bats or to destroy a roost without a licence, carries a £5000 fine for each offence which can be accumulative. To demolish a building with bats, the bats could be moved to another suitable building (by a licenced ecologist and with a EC licence), which might have to be built specially for them in the vicinity. Which is why you can read plenty of stories about people with bats who end up building special bat houses at vast expense which never get used by bats.

But of course it requires the authorities to know that there are bats there in the first place. Which is why some people take steps to remove the bats (by removing the roof, for example) before they apply for planning permission for an old building, which will almost certainly require a bat survey.

#11 jsharris

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 10:22 AM

My late father in law was a licensed bat warden for years, and used to do bat surveys in his spare time, and deal with issues like the need to move roosts from buildings that were being renovated etc.

He was always pretty pragmatic about moving bat roosts, particularly of very common species like Pipistrelles, as he often said, bats are only using roof spaces because they mimic the sort of spaces in holes in old trees that they use for summer roosts. I remember he also mentioned that the vast majority of bat roosts in houses were temporary roosts, either being used for feeding forays in the immediate area for a few days, or as summer roosts if there was good feeding around for several months. It's pretty rare to have an all year around permanent colony in a roof, as bats like a pretty constant low temperature for their winter hibernation roosts.

The major problem we have created is that by having inflexible legislation, with harsh penalties and high compliance costs, we are encouraging people to quietly get rid of bat roosts before they make any sort of formal planning application. Whilst much of the time the harm this creates to bats might be fairly small (most of the common species are pretty opportunistic and will quickly just find another hang out in the area) there is a small risk that some of the endangered species could be threatened. It's a particular issue for the specialist species, such as Daubenton's who pretty much only hunt over small streams and rivers, as they will seek roosts that are within easy transit distance to a suitable feeding area, and moving them from a roof may well leave them with nowhere else to go. Without a survey there's no way of knowing what species may be using a roost, and so no way of knowing how much harm taking a roof off before development may cause.

Back when my late father in law was doing surveys, pretty much all the people involved were volunteers from local bat conservation groups, and few charged more than their petrol money to do a survey. I've helped with a few, and made a couple of bat detectors (I still have one here on the shelf next to me) as I really quite enjoyed going out at dusk and seeing how many bats came out of a roost and finding out what species they were. 90% of the time you can do this using the bat detector, as they all have species specific echo location calls, but confirmation was always by collecting some droppings. Since it has become an increasing requirement for planning, the whole bat survey business seems to have been commercialised, with prices to match.

If I'm honest (and this isn't a recommendation by me for anyone else to do the same), if I I was faced with the wish to renovate an old building that may house bats, then I'd be inclined to do my own bat survey first, determine if there were bats present, what species they were, what type of roost it was and then make a decision as to what to do next. If it was just an occasional feeding foray roost, used by a common species, then I'd be inclined to wait till it was inactive and then just take the roof off and remove any evidence of droppings before doing anything official in the way of applications. The risk to the local bat population from doing this would be very small, especially if one or two bat boxes were put up nearby as alternative roost locations.

If I found a roost that was more permanent, or that had a rarer species of bat, then I'd just bite the bullet and get in the experts to provide advice.

The problem we have is that we are making a lot of people spend large sums of money without actually make a jot of difference in terms of conserving bats. Around 3 years ago we looked at a farm building (an old cow byre) that was for sale, with planning permission to convert to a single storey house. The owner was very open about his 18 month battle to gain planning permission, and equally apologetic for the planners insistence that an insulated bat loft, with temperature control and a specially designed gable end entry point, had to be included in the roof space. We sat in his kitchen looking over the planning correspondence, and found he'd paid close to a thousand pounds on surveys, and had to have his architect employ a bat conservation advisor to design the roof box, on the basis of the initial bat survey that had found one (yes, just one) Pipistrelle dropping in an open part of the building. In all probability this was a juvenile stop out who'd spent one night in the place. Subsequent surveys over several nights (demanded by the planners) saw no evidence of any bat activity in the building, yet the planners insisted that these complex bat provisions be built in. It was completely and totally barking mad, and even the local bat group lady said as much when I spoke to her. She pointed out that this farm building was in open fields, around 1/2 mile from the nearest group of trees, so was, in any case, an extremely unlikely place to find even a solitary bat making a night stop, let alone be somewhere bats would use as a significant roost site.

Edited by jsharris, 26 July 2014 - 10:25 AM.
typos


#12 sarahsouthwest

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Posted 28 July 2014 - 06:34 PM

Exactly.

If anyone is after a bat detector, our bat consultant recommended the children's one from Argos for under a tenner. He's got one and uses it! Apparently it's just as good as other heteradyne detectors aimed at the non-professional market which are normally in the £100+ bracket. (He also had a £1000+ model. I wouldn't want you thinking we'd got a cheapskate ecologist on our build.)

BTW thanks for the tip about tents Dave. Good to know before one starts storing stuff up in the bat loft.

#13 SteamyTea

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 12:29 PM

Half the students on my BSc course were of the 'ecology' bent. One or two were full blown conservationists.
I would be inclined to remove all evidence.
I did spent an interesting hour down at Mousehole a few weeks back trying to take pictures of bats, they seemed to like the noise my camera flash made while it was charging.