Bat surveys for renovation projects and barn conversions

What is involved if you need to get an ecological or bat survey when converting a property?

Unconverted stone barns and other farm buildings are not only attractive to house hunters seeking a unique home. Whether abandoned or in regular use, rural buildings are often home to bats and birds such as barn owls, swallows and house martins.

The Local Planning Authority may request that an ecological survey report is carried out before they will allow you to proceed with a conversion project and one of the most common of these is the bat survey.

There are 18 different types of bats living in the UK and all of them are protected. It is illegal to kill, capture or injure bats, and it is also illegal to damage or destroy their habitat. So these squatters have rights and you can't simply evict them from your property.

The need to accommodate these protected species should be identified as early as possible and there are a number of specialist companies that offer a range of ecological services and surveys.

There are two main forms of bat survey:

1. Preliminary bat surveys

These roost scoping surveys to check for bat presence involve a site visit by an ecological surveyor to inspect both the interior and exterior of the building. These can be done at any time of the year as the specialist is simply looking for possible roosting sites, bat droppings, or any other signs that bats are or have been present. They will also look for signs of hibernating bats during winter months.

2. Bat emergence surveys

If the preliminary survey finds bat activity or is inconclusive, an emergence survey is the next step. This survey can only be done in the summer months (May - September) and involves watching the barn at dusk to spot bats emerging from the barn as they fly out to feed.

Whilst it is an expense and an inconvenience, the presence of roosting animals does not prevent a conversion from going ahead. It may affect the timing of the work depending on the species present and whether the site is a summer roost or a winter hibernation site. Planning may also require features to be built into the design to allow the bats to continue to use the building.

Appropriate mitigation can be produced by a licensed and experienced bat ecologist. If the survey is planned early in the development process, it can save the time and expense of changing plans after the planning application has been submitted.

Bat surveys for renovation projects and barn conversions

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