Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I’ve been asked by my local planning authority to have my barn surveyed for bats as part of a planning application. What does this mean and why is it necessary?

A. Most of the 16 bat species resident in the UK make use of man-made structures, such as houses, barns, tunnels and bridges, for roosting. Bats are protected by European and domestic law and are vulnerable to disturbance and injury resulting from building work. The local planning authority therefore requires sufficient information on the presence or absence of bats at your site to allow them to assess the impacts of the proposed development and determine the application. A bat survey provides the necessary information by establishing whether bats are present, and, if so, the species and number of bats present and the time of the year the barn is used.

Q. What is a Phase 1 survey and why might I need to undertake one?

A. Phase 1 surveys are a standardised method to assess large areas of land; land is mapped under a set method to determine the broad habitat types present. An Extended Phase 1 survey includes an assessment of species (protected or not) that may be present. The habitat and species information recorded during the survey can be used to guide more detailed surveys and provides a means of baseline ecological assessment.

Q. An initial 'scoping' survey has revealed the presence of protected species. Do I have to have further surveys for them even though the planning authority has not asked for them?

A. Although the local planning authority may not have requested the surveys, the laws protecting the species involved are still relevant. If the proposed development will result in impacts to the species concerned then compensation and mitigation works may be necessary. The statutory nature conservation organisation such as Natural England may also need to be consulted or a statutory licence obtained prior to works beginning.

Q. I need to establish whether great crested newts (GCN) are using my ponds, can you advise on what I need to do?

A. Apex Ecology can advise on methods of ecological survey relevant to protected species that may be encountered in the UK. In the case of GCN, standardised methods and timings of survey work need to be employed. Generally, GCN surveys are carried out between mid-March and mid-June when the adults return to water to breed. The surveys use a variety of methods to assess water-bodies, including, netting, ‘torching’ and ‘bottle trapping’. Further methods can be used to assess newt presence when on land but these tend to be employed in exceptional cases and can be less effective than pond surveys.

Q. Why might I need to have a breeding bird survey carried out and undertake the felling and removal of trees and shrubs outside the 'bird breeding season'?

A. All wild birds are given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended), making it an offence (with certain exceptions) to intentionally kill, injure or take a wild bird; take, damage or destroy the nest whilst it is in use of being built; and take or destroy the eggs of any wild bird. Some species of bird, such as barn owl, have the additional protection from disturbance during the breeding season. Many species of bird have also declined in recent years and bird assemblages can provide a useful indication of the quality of habitat present.

The best way of reducing the chance of destroying an active nest, chicks and eggs is to undertake felling and clearance work outside the breeding bird season. The bird breeding season is generally considered to be between March to August inclusive, although, depending upon the species, geographical area and the weather conditions, nesting can extend outside this period.

Although, the presence of breeding birds does not give protection to the habitat itself, local planning authorities may request compensatory planting of trees, shrubs, etc. to create suitable bird breeding habitat to replace, that which has been lost. that compensatory planting is created to off-set

Q. I have been told I need to obtain a statutory European Protected Species licence. What is one and how do I obtain it?

A. A statutory licence is needed to undertake works, which affect 'European Protected Species'and which would otherwise be illegal. EPS are those protected under Part III, Section 38 of The Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 1994, and include for example, all species of bat, hazel dormice and great crested newt. The licence application is now made by the developer but the Method Statement accompanying the application is usually prepared by an ecologist who has experience in working with the species in question and has previously held licences for similar work. The ecologist would then be responsible for overseeing the licensed works.

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