Wye Ruin It?

Wye Ruin It?

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Bats!

Many of those who will be affected by the Western Bypass and the Southern Link Road got a letter this week informing them that Gateley and Hamer want to come and survey their property for bats at the beginning of September. We do not know if they have been given special permission to enter properties for this purpose, and if they have a special licence it will be illegal to prevent their entry. 

Saying that, there are two schools of thought on this and it is best that you discuss this with your family and neighbours in making your own decision:

  1. Either take the line of making it difficult for the consultant ecologists, so that the survey is delayed.
  2. Or cooperate, on the understanding that the property owner receives all the data that is collected by the consultants. That way everyone may know what is found on a particular date in a particular place. There will be bats flying and roosting until they hibernate around the end of September or maybe later. 

Below is some general advice from the Bat Society sent to one of our supporters in response to her query about how to respond to this:

Greetings,
Thank you for contacting the Bat Conservation Trust regarding bats that may be threatened
by development. We are a small charity and regrettably cannot get involved in or comment on individual cases. However, please find some general information on bats and planning below.

Bats and the law
In the UK, bats and their roosts are protected by law whether occupied or not. It is illegal to
damage, destroy or disturb any bats or roosts without having taken the necessary
precautions. A roost is defined as any place that a wild bat uses for shelter or protection and the roost is protected whether bats are present in it or not.
The ‘Supporting Legislation’ section in ‘The planning system’ leaflet attached provides a
more in-depth overview of bats and the legal system.

How you can help
Contact your local authority or council building control (if it is regarding a demolition and
not part of a wider planning application) to find out whether a bat survey has been carried
out.  If you know bats use the site or bat presence is likely then you are within your rights to request that a survey be completed if one has not been carried out. 
The most effective way to contact your local authority is in writing, but we advise that you also follow this up with a phone call to ensure your enquiry is on record. Where possible we would also encourage you to send the letter to the applicant making them aware of possible bat presence.

Local authorities usually acknowledge receipt of letters within five working days so if you do not hear back from the local authority within this time we suggest that you contact them again. You may then need to follow up with them beyond this to request an update. We recommend that you retain a trail of correspondence in case evidence is required later on e.g. if contacting your Local Government Ombudsman if unsatisfied with the response from your local authority or if police require this as part of an investigation.  Please refer to the attached leaflet for more information.

Planning authorities must abide by a number of rules which, if known, can be used to enforce good practice and protect bats. The ‘Getting Your Voice Heard’ and ‘Submitting a Written Objection’ sections in the attached leaflet outline how best to approach this and give good guidance on how to compose an official letter.

You can find details of whether a survey has been carried out and what was found in the
planning application documents. Most local authorities publish information on planning
applications on their websites, or you can call the office directly and ask how this may be
made available to you.  You can find more information on the planning process and the
website address for your local planning authority on the Planning Portal.

You could also contact your local bat group for information about bats in the area, especially with regard to recorded bat roosts and bat sightings in the county. However, please be aware that bat groups are voluntary organisations and many do not have the resources to respond to planning related enquires. Bat group details can be found at: www.bats.org.uk/batgroups

Your local biological record centre may hold information about bats rather than the bat
group. Record centre details can be found at: www.alerc.org.uk/find-an-lerc-map.html

You may also wish to approach your Local Wildlife Trust as they sometimes comment on
planning applications. Find your nearest one at: www.wildlifetrusts.org/your-local-
trust

What you should expect of the local authority
The planning authority has a legal obligation to consider whether bats are likely to be
affected by a proposed development. If a survey has not already been undertaken to
determine the potential for bats on site and/or the presence of bats, the authority should
request that the developers commission an appropriate survey.

If a survey demonstrates that development is likely to affect bat foraging and/or commuting habitat then linear features such as tree lines should be retained, and compensatory planting should be considered wherever possible.

If a survey demonstrates that bats and/or a known roost are likely to be affected by the
proposed development, and planning permission is to be granted, a condition should be placed on the decision notice requiring the developer to apply for, and obtain, a European
Protected Species Licence before work commences.

The licence will specify planning conditions such as timing of works and mitigation to lessen impacts. If you later suspect that a developer is contravening the conditions of their licence try to check the conditions of the licence with the authority that issued it, this varies depending upon the country (see contact numbers below) and alert the local planning office.

Licensing authority by country:
Natural England- 0300 060 3900
Natural Resources Wales- 0300 065 3000
Scottish Natural Heritage - 01463 725 364
Northern Ireland Environment Agency - 0845 302 0008

If you have viewed the survey report and are not happy with how or when the surveys were
carried out, you may wish to take a look at the ‘BCT Bat Survey Guidelines’ to check
whether best practice guidance has been followed. This can be downloaded in full via our
website

I have also attached a shortened version of the decision process of surveying and licensing. Please inform your local authority if you find that insufficient surveying has taken place. Again we advise that you send a letter and follow up with a call and contact them again if you do not hear back within 5 working days. Please note that for resource reasons we are unfortunately unable to comment on any surveys which have been carried out.

If you witness an offence being committed (e.g. bats being disturbed, bat roost being
destroyed, or access blocked) please inform the Police Wildlife Crime Officer in your local
area by calling 101 or calling the local Police Force directly, mentioning the ‘Investigative
Guidance for bat offences’ (which they can find in the Police Online Knowledge Area
(POLKA)) and request an incident number. (If the Wildlife Crime Officer is not available it
should not affect the reporting of the incident, please do so anyway).

Please also report this incident along with the incident number obtained from the Police to the Bat Conservation Trust so we can follow this up.  If you are aware of a licence breach in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland this should also be reported to the police in the same way.  If the licence breach is in England however, then the matter should be reported to Natural England’s Wildlife Enforcement Specialist on 0300 060 1099.

I hope that this information will be of help.
Eibhlin McMenamin
Seasonal Helpline Officer
National Bat Helpline, Bat Conservation Trust, Quadrant House, 250 Kennington Lane,
London SE11 5RD
Helpline: 0345 1300 228 - Please note that the helpline number has changed.

Office (9am – 5:30pm): 020 7735 6663
Fax: 020 7820 7198
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or 10 to 70070.

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The Bat Conservation Trust (known as BCT) is a registered charity in England and Wales
(1012361) and in Scotland (SC040116).  Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered in
England No: 2712823. Registered office: Quadrant House, 250 Kennington Lane, London
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Patricia Ronan