Bats and Bat Surveys

17 Mar 2023 | BY Apex Ecology

There are 18 resident bat species within the UK and although generally widespread in the UK many of the species are regionally restricted. Bats in the UK have seen numbers plummet over the past 50 years due to habitat loss and the use of pesticides in particular massively reducing the numbers of their insect prey species. In some countries such as the US, they play a big part in controlling insect populations.

In the UK if you’re looking to submit a planning application, for any proposed development that could impact bats and bat populations, you’ll need a bat survey.

Across the UK, all species of bats, their breeding sites, and resting places are fully protected by law. This means it is illegal to kill or disturb them. So, if you’re a homeowner or a developer looking to carry out any work that may affect bats, you need to consider the potential impact your activities could have on these protected species.

This is where Apex Ecology can help. We have been providing our bat survey services across England and Wales for around 20 years. Whether you’re a small homeowner or a large-scale developer, we can provide a tailored service.


What is a bat survey and what’s included?


A bat survey has become an essential part of many planning applications in the UK. Bat surveys usually follow a set procedure set out in national guidance. For example, a structure or tree is first assessed for the potential for use by bats. It is assessed for features that bats might use such as gaps between roof tiles that lead to small voids between tiles, or woodpecker holes that extend into the tree. The features and structure/tree are then graded for their potential for use by bats. From the grading the need for further in-depth assessment is made and to what level of effort.

Further bat survey if deemed necessary tends to be in the form of activity surveys to assess whether bats use the structure/tree. These can be evening emergence surveys where the survey watches for bats emerging from suitable features, or a pre-dawn re-entry survey to watch bats re-enter the feature. Information on the bat species present, the numbers, and the roost type are recorded by note-taking, night vision cameras, and by ultrasonic bat detectors.

A subsequent report will outline the methods used in the bat survey and any results of the survey. If bats are recorded as using the structure/tree, then recommendations will be made for mitigating the impacts on bats of any proposed development. Recommendations could include licensing the proposed works via Natural England, providing roost opportunities such as bat boxes, or incorporating bat-friendly features into the design of the building or development.


Getting a bat licence when bats are found


In some cases, if roosting bats are found it is necessary to apply for a bat licence from the relevant statutory nature conservation body. This allows the development to progress by advising on how to avoid offences being committed during any proposed works. The relevant bodies in England and Wales are Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Our team can provide expert advice and support throughout the bat licensing process. This will include preparing the licence application. Plus providing ongoing monitoring and reporting.

Applying for a bat licence requires input and understanding of bat ecology and the legal framework governs their protection. Apex Ecology’s team of experienced ecologists have a wealth of knowledge and experience dating back over 20 years in applying for and working on bat licences. 


More about Apex Ecology


Apex Ecology is a professional ecological consultancy that provides a range of services to individuals, businesses, and public authorities across England and Wales. Our team includes experienced ecologists, offering expert advice and practical solutions. We always aim to support and help our clients to navigate and avoid pitfalls in environmental legislation to achieve their development goals.


Our Services


In addition to bat surveys and bat licence applications, Apex Ecology also offers a range of other ecological services. These include protected species surveys, biodiversity net gain assessments,  ecological impact assessments, and habitat creation and management. By working with Apex Ecology, you can ensure that your development project complies with environmental legislation and best practice, while also protecting the natural environment.


Contact Us


Apex Ecology provides bat surveys and bat licensing services to homeowners and developers in England and Wales. These services are essential for ensuring compliance with environmental legislation and protecting bat populations, which play a vital role in our ecosystem. If you’d like to discuss your development project with our team of experienced ecologists, please get in touch. Call us at 01782 346494, email us at [email protected], or fill out our contact form.