Protecting Our Wildlife
With thirteen of the sixteen species of bat in the UK known to roost in them, trees are an essential part of an ecosystem providing a variety of habitats for bats with some species relying exclusively on trees for roost sites, whilst others use them for just part of the year whilst all of them forage in woodland and on the edges of woodland.
Any tree can be used as a bat roost, as long as it provides shelter in some form or another. Although upper truck and branches are more common places for a roost, they can actually be found at any height and where there is shelter and good cover.
In Britain, all bat species and their roosts are legally protected and it is a criminal offence to deliberately capture, injure of kill a bat; to recklessly disturb a bat or group of bats in a roost; to damage or destroy a roost (even if it’s not occupied at the time; to possess or advertise a bat dead or alive, in part or as a whole and to intentionally obstruct access to a roost.
Protection by domestic and international law means that we are required by that legislation to carry out an assessment for bat occupation prior to carrying out work on trees, particularly where felling is concerned.
In most cases we can carry out self-assessment and survey and if we are confident that proposed work will not result in damage to roosts or disturbance or harm to animals, then no further action is necessary. In each case we must keep a record of our assessment and any survey findings and decision.
If we discover a bat roost after we’ve started work, we would need to look at our planned work and try to preserve the roost and the neighbouring trees that protect it.
If (either before or during works), we assess a mature tree that needs to be removed and a roost or bats are found to be present, but as part of our work can’t avoid harming their habitat, we must apply for a mitigation licence from Natural England.
Mitigation licences are free but when applying we must ensure that we complete and supply the following paperwork:
- The application for for bat mitigation
- A method statement to show what we’ll do to reduce the impact of the proposed work on the bats
- A schedule of works detailing when the works will be carried out and in what order
We also need to supply
- Evidence by way of a reasoned statement to demonstrate that the work is necessary and that there is no satisfactory alternative.
- References that show we have the necessary experience to apply for such a licence
In some cases, a bat expert may visit the site to assess the risk to a roost by undertaking the work needed.