You may have become aware that bats are living in your house for a number of reasons. Perhaps you have been sitting in the garden at dusk and seen them flying out of the roof; or maybe you have actually seen bats in your loft or found their droppings on the loft floor. So now that you know they are there, what do you do?
The first question to ask yourself is ‘do I actually need to do anything?’ In general bats are trouble free neighbours and many people live in houses with bats for years without even knowing that they are there. Unlike mice and rats, they don’t gnaw your belongings and wires, they don’t scamper around keeping you awake at night and unless you have a very large colony, they rarely smell.
However, it is important that you are aware that all UK bats are protected under UK and European law due to the fact that their populations have declined over the past few decades. The most relevant parts of the law that you will need to know about are summarised below, but more detail can be found by following this link www.bats.org.uk/pages/bats_and_the_law.
You would be committing a criminal offence if you:
- Intentionally kill, injure or capture bats.
- Deliberately disturb bats (whether in a roost or not).
- Damage, destroy or obstruct access to bat roosts.
This means that you will need to give careful consideration to bats if you are planning on doing maintenance, repairs or improvement works to your house such as installing loft insulation and undertaking timber treatment or roof repairs. This is because you could accidently block access points or even intoxicate bats if these works are not undertaken in an appropriate manner or at an appropriate time of year. To help householders avoid committing an offence, Natural England and the Bat Conservation Trust run the National Bat Helpline (0345 1300 228 or visit www.bats.org.uk/bat_help.php) where you can receive free advice.
If you are planning on undertaking major works to your property, for example undertaking a loft conversion, or building an extension, the voluntary system will not be applicable and you will need to commission a survey from a professional ecological consultant. When choosing a consultant you should make sure that they are members of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and that they also hold an appropriate bat licence from Natural England (or the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation for your location). Acorn Ecology Ltd is a safe choice as all of our Principal and Senior Ecologists are full members of CIEEM and we also have licensed bat workers with years of professional experience.
In this situation Acorn Ecology would undertake a preliminary bat survey involving an internal and external inspection of the building for signs of, and potential for, bats. Following this survey the consultant would probably need to recommend further dusk emergence and/or dawn re-entry surveys in the period May to September when bats are most active so it makes sense to plan ahead so that you don’t miss this survey window.
We would then produce a report that can be submitted with your planning application (if applicable). This report will outline the survey findings, assess the potential impacts of the works on bats and outline measures that will avoid impacts on bats, or compensate/mitigate these impacts. This may include timing works during periods when bats won’t be present, retaining existing roost access points or providing new roosting opportunities, for example a bat loft or bat boxes. Exactly what is required will depend on the species present, the type of roost, and the type of works that are being undertaken. The report will also provide advice about whether a licence from Natural England (or the relevant SNCO) will be required to undertake the work.
The bottom line is that if you have bats in your house it doesn’t mean that you can’t undertake maintenance and development works. Just make sure you get advice at an early stage!