Are Bat Surveys getting a bad deal??
You’ve only got to Google bat surveys to find a whole host of
articles and blog posts about the costs and delays associated with bat surveys
in the context of planning and development. This is something I come across
everyday in my working life and the bat group are getting increasing queries regarding
this article for example.
The latter ‘journalist’ describes bat surveys as a fleece
and questions the integrity of the bat surveyors, suggesting that they are
planting evidence to secure more work.
Why do people get asked for bat surveys?
People often feel very aggrieved about the need for a bat
survey in the first place. Oftentimes, it comes out of the blue. The local
planning authority will frequently come to you at the eleventh hour of your
planning application’s determination period, only to say they have insufficient
information and need a bat survey.
What does this request for a bat survey mean to you?
If you’re like most people: frustration, disappointment and
resentment. You lose faith in the efficiency and the fairness of planning
It’s the same feeling I get when I take may car to the
garage for an MOT, to be told by the mechanic I need new brakes, a new clutch,
new tyres, and the list goes on to about a gazillion parts which almost never
seem to total less than £500 (excluding labour and VAT of course.)
Give the bats and the surveyors a break!
In a bad week, I can have the same conversation with tens of
people. I try to explain: that the surveyors perform surveys, that they don’t
make the law, nor planning policies, and that persuading us you don’t need bat
surveys—or trying to—is not helping advance your planning application.
I go (what feels like) around in circles, explaining that:
“I can’t write a letter to the planners for you saying you
don’t have bats.
“There is not a ‘lesser’ type of survey that is applicable
to your small house extension.
“It’s your choice to get a bat survey done or not, no one is
forcing you to do anything.”
Sometimes it only takes a minute, other times this can go on
for weeks, but eventually the penny drops, and we start to discuss what can be
done to get the project moving forward again as well as protecting the bats.
So what can be done about bat surveys?
The first step to progressing a planning application where
bat survey reports are required, is to accept that this national planning
policy exists to satisfy your local authority that legally protected species are
not at risk—either directly, in consequence of your development, or through
habitat being permanently lost to development. Further, that the onus of proof rests
upon you, the applicant.
The next step is to engage a reputable bat surveyor. This
must be someone who is trained, educated and licensed. If you instruct someone
without such authority, you risk his or her inexperience being questioned by
the local planning authority.
What does a bat survey typically cost?
That depends on what
is found, however you can a find a list of suitably qualified people
through the Institute of Ecology and
Environmental Management Web site.
With a bit of luck, you’ll get change from £400. In the rare
instance that bats, evidence, or features with habitat value are found, expect to pay
more than this for a second stage of survey.
So I have paid for a bat survey, what now?
The purpose of the survey is to inform the design of
mitigation and license requirements, or exclude them altogether.
Nothing beats reading it for yourself
You can find out more about bat surveys by visiting the Bat
Conservation Trust Web site and reading their best practice guidance for bat