What is a Licensed Bat Worker and Why Might I Need One?
Have you ever been asked by a competent authority or perhaps a planning consultant to engage the services of a licensed bat worker or licensed bat consultant? If the answer to this question is yes, then it’s possible this request was made in support of a proposed or consented development, but equally could have been made in support of a project that does not require planning consent? For the non-ecologist, these terms must seem unusual, after all, why do you need any form of permission, let alone a licence, to undertake works that have the capacity to impact something as small as a bat? Puzzled? Well don’t be… We’ve prepared this blog to help you develop a better understanding of the legislation protecting bats and provide a background as to why you might have been asked to engage the services of a licensed bat worker or licensed bat consultant in support of your project.
First and foremost, the law… Wildlife legislation affording protection to bats is some of the strictest in the UK. In fact, all species of bat within the UK are strictly protected by law, with notable legislative differences between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, all species of bat currently receive protection under the Conservation (Natural Habitat &c) Regulations 1994 (as amended), which directly transposes the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora (‘the Habitats Directive’) into domestic law. Together with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, it is an offence to deliberately and/or recklessly disturb, capture, injure or kill a wild bat or disturb or obstruct access to a roost, which is defined as any structure or place that a bat, or group of bats, use for shelter or protection, regardless of the level of use.
So, with an appreciation of the law, what role does the licensed bat worker or licensed bat consultant play? Well, in Scotland, a licensed bat worker or licensed bat consultant is a person, who having received an appropriate level of training and successfully gained a bat roost survey licence from Scottish Natural Heritage, is licensed to catch and handle bats for identification purposes or to enter a roost to gain more information about the roost or it’s occupants. In contrast, an unlicensed person can neither handle nor capture bats nor enter their roosts but is freely available to look for bats outside of their roosts (inc. bats leaving their roosts at dusk or re-entering them at dawn) or listening for bats using a bat detector.
So what is the difference between a licensed bat worker and licensed bat consultant? Well, the difference comes down to the way in which an individual exercises their bat roost licence. A licensed bat consultant is typically an ecological consultant with a specialism in bats and their ecology, but unlike another ecological consultants with a similar specialism, they also hold a bat roost licence, which permits them to lawfully undertake the actions outlined above. In contrast, a licensed bat worker typically exercises their licence and knowledge for conservation purposes e.g. undertaking voluntary roost visits on behalf of organisations like the Bat Conservation Trust. That said, there is a lot of overlap between the two roles, as many licensed bat consultants also exercise their licences for conservation projects and conservation-related research and vice versa.
Finally, with an understanding of the law and what a licensed bat worker or licensed bat consultant can do, in terms of their licence, how does this relate to developments and projects? Well, in addition to administering personal licenses for bat workers and bat consultants, Scottish Natural Heritage are also responsible for administering licences to lawfully permit development and/or project works that have the capacity to directly and/or indirectly affect bats and/or their roosts, ranging from major works (e.g. new housing developments) through to minor home works (e.g. roof repairs). A development licence is typically procured on behalf of a client by a licensed bat consultant, sometimes also a licensed bat worker, with the necessary licensing support, as required through licence conditions, provided by the worker or consultant. Typically, this comprises the drafting of method statements, presentation of toolbox talks (prior to any works being undertaken) and/or the direct supervision of development and/or project works e.g. the stripping of materials within 5m of a bat roost or from areas identified as being suitable for roosting bats. The licensed bat worker or consultant may also be responsible for preparing a draft licence return (on behalf of the licence holder) for review and submission in line with conditions of a development licence.
This blog was written by Graham Sennhauser. Graham is TETRIX Ecology’s Principal Ecologist and is a licensed bat consultant/licensed bat worker. He would be more than happy to respond to any bat-related questions in connection with his blog or in connection with any other project. You can learn more about Graham's background via his profile page or contact him on the following email address: graham@TETRIXecology.com.