BSG Ecology uses new Natural England European Protected Species Licensing Policies to reduce costs and timescales for Project Completion

BSG Ecology uses new Natural England European Protected Species Licensing Policies to reduce costs and timescales for Project Completion

BSG Ecology has recently been successful in securing a Bat Mitigation Licence for urgent roofing works by utilising one of Natural England’s four new European Protected Species (EPS) licensing policies.

This allowed works to progress at least seven months sooner than would otherwise have been the case and meant that significant project cost savings could be made. BSG Ecology understand, from liaison with Natural England, that this was only the second case relating to bats to be considered under the new licencing policies, since their introduction in December 2016.

Project Description

The Site concerned is a school in Derbyshire, where re-roofing is required due to the age and poor condition of the existing roof covering and instances of falling slates. BSG Ecology was alerted to the situation by Derbyshire County Council (DCC) in mid-January 2017 and immediately visited the site. Evidence of a bat maternity roost was found in the roof void and another roost was found below an external crevice on a wall plate. Based on the winter daytime assessment and DNA analysis of bat droppings it was concluded that the school roof supported a mixed maternity colony of whiskered and Brandt’s bats and common pipistrelle day and hibernation roosts.

The industry standard approach in this scenario would typically be a recommendation to undertake dusk emergence and/or dawn re-entry bat surveys, during the bats’ active period, in order to gain sufficient data on the status of bats at the Site to inform an application for a Bat Mitigation Licence to Natural England. This would have meant further bat survey work being undertaken during May and June 2017, a licence application being made in July 2017 and works likely commencing at the end of the bats’ active period in September/October 2017.

However, the project provided an opportunity to apply one of Natural England’s new licencing policies for European Protected Species; in this case Policy 4.

Policy 4 states: “Natural England will be expected to ensure that licensing decisions are properly supported by survey information, taking into account industry standards and guidelines. It may, however, accept a lower than standard survey effort where: the costs or delays associated with carrying out standard survey requirements would be disproportionate to the additional certainty that it would bring; the ecological impacts of development can be predicted with sufficient certainty; and mitigation or compensation will ensure that the licensed activity does not detrimentally affect the conservation status of the local population of any EPS.”

BSG Ecology considered that a sound case could be made to allow the roofing works to proceed, under licence, with a lower than standard survey effort (reflecting Policy 4). Our experience in bat mitigation licencing allowed us to predict ecological impacts with sufficient certainty to propose a detailed mitigation strategy (including modifications to the roof covering) that satisfied Natural England that the conservation status of local bat populations would not be detrimentally affected.

Together with surveyors at DCC, BSG Ecology gathered evidence to apply for the Bat Mitigation Licence on the grounds of preserving public health and or public safety. This included a risk assessment to show the short-term control measures that had been put in place, and proof that the slates were in such bad condition that emergency repairs had to be abandoned for worry of creating even worse damage.

Rather than the typical 30 working-day period for the determination of a Bat Mitigation Licence, Natural England returned a positive response to this particular application in just 9 working days. This has allowed the roofing works to progress during March and April 2017 in order that they can be completed in anticipation of the return of the maternity colony in May 2017, reducing timescales for project completion from about 11 months to 4 months.

Experienced Practitioners

From liaison with Natural England it is apparent that they gave particular consideration to the experience of the Named Ecologist when determining the licence application. A critical element of the role of the Named Ecologist is communication between NE Wildlife Advisors and the Applicant or Land Owner, and this necessitates NE having a high degree of confidence in the ecologist put forward to fulfil this role.

In this case the Named Ecologist holds a Level 2 Class Licence for bats and has successfully delivered over 40 Bat Mitigation Licences.

Conclusion

This has been a positive case study for one of Natural England’s new licencing policies for European protected species, showing how their understanding and appropriate application can result in savings in both project cost and time and that, in some circumstances, there is greater flexibility on the level of survey required.

For further information in relation to the work please contact Senior Ecologists David Stiles at BSG Ecology’s Derbyshire office.

Natural England’s new licencing policies

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