All British bats are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), through inclusion in Schedule 5. (In Northern Ireland the appropriate legislation is the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended)). This makes it illegal to deliberately kill, injure or disturb bats - if there are problems then the relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO) should be contacted. These are English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Department for the Environment (N. Ireland). Further legislation has been drawn up since, such as all bats being included in Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (or Northern Ireland 1995) and most recently the CROW Act 2000.
Building work is a common problem. Always get in touch with an SNCO if there is a possibility that bats may be disturbed or if bats are discovered once work has begun. If bats are present it doesn't mean that all work must stop - just that it must commence with as little harm and disturbance to the roost as possible. This may mean waiting for the bats to move on in the autumn or incorporating a bat friendly brick!
Many homeowners are completely oblivious to the fact that they are sharing their place of residence with a roost of bats; so keep your eyes peeled! Bats can squeeze through tiny gaps so you may not even be able to spot where they get in and out.
Where a new development is likely to affect a bat roost, suitable surveys are required and then an application to the Department for the Environment, Fisheries & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) must be made for a licence (under the habitats regulations) before work may proceed. This licence will stipulate the mitigation measures that must be carried out to safeguard the bats.
All roosts are protected by law - whether in a roof space, a garden shed or a dead tree. So please let us know if you think work is being carried out which may be endangering potential bat roosts and we will find out if the proper channels have been gone through. For more up to date information got to the Bat Conservation Trust web site.
© Rebecca Collins, 1999