How to deal with bats in construction and building sites
Disturbance by bats in construction and building sites is a real risk and common occurrence. Bat conservation is an essential topic for builders and the wider construction industry to be aware of, because all of the UK’s bats and their roosts are protected by law. This means that if bats are found on site, they must be dealt with in a very specific manner.
Generally, only licensed bat specialists can legally handle bats, so it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or remove any bat. It is also illegal to recklessly damage, destroy or block bat roosts. It is important to note that you must not destroy a bat roost even if it appears empty; bats tend to return to the same roosts each year, so these sites are protected whether bats are present or not.
What can be done if you find a bat on site?
The first solution you can try is leaving bats to find their own way out if they have not clearly roosted. However, this is only recommended if the bats are few in number and appear to have not settled, which is incredibly hard to recognise.
If the bats do not leave on their own accord, special measures will be required to adhere to ecological legislation. The best thing you can do is engage early with a licensed bat ecologist; you will not be in legal trouble if you act responsibly as soon as bats are found. As long as you pause all work immediately and seek advice from your SNCO or an ecological consultant, you should avoid liability.
We strongly recommend halting all building work sitewide when you discover bats. There may be bats in other parts of the building, even if those parts are far away, and the visible roost can still be affected by the work you do in other areas of the site.
How can I recognise a bat roost?
Unfortunately, seeing one bat may mean there is a roost. A roost is defined in law as ‘any place a wild bat uses for shelter or protection’. Factors such as the number of bats, the age of the building and the duration the bats have been there do not impact the status of a roost; as soon as a bat uses the space for shelter, it is a roost.
Bats rely on roots in several locations, so every roost is critical for their survival. While frustrating to put construction on hold, bat conservation is of high importance so you must protect any roost you find to avoid criminal penalties.
Can bats stop planning permission?
It is important if you discover bats or a known roost that you immediately inform key stakeholders in the planning permission process. If a bat survey shows bats are present and likely to be affected by the proposed development, a condition will be placed on the decision notice requiring the developer to apply for and obtain a European Protected Species License before work commences.
Can disruption be prevented?
Realistically, it is almost impossible to prevent bats from entering your site; there is always a chance they will roost. However, you can include bats in your planning of building works from the outset, including maintenance. For example, you can time your work to avoid breeding season, or install bat boxes that can be used to re-home bats found during construction.
Whatever your strategy, it is important to always remain compliant and keep bat conservation in mind during building work.