Conditioned bat surveys

  • 23rd Jun 2022

In 2006 the then Scottish Executive wrote to local planning authorities, reminding them that, at sites where bat surveys are required, it was illegal for them to issue planning consent until the surveys were completed. The result was that virtually all local authorities ceased doing so. However, in the last 2-3 years we have seen an increasing trend in local authorities returning to issuing planning consent with completion of bat surveys as a condition.

Why is this an issue?
Ecological speaking it isn't. As long as surveys are carried out prior to work taking place, and any bat roosts found licensed and mitigated appropriately there is no problem with this approach. The issue is purely a legal one: LPAs are obliged to consider protected species in their planning decsions and without a completed survey report they can't be said to have done that.

What is the impact on development?
Generally speaking, provided LPAs are checking that the condition is fully discharged, the impacts are all positive. Stage 2 (activity) bat surveys are seasonal, and can usually only be carried out between 1 May and 30 September (with at least one visit prior to 31 August). This can often cause long delays, especially where LPAs don't request a bat survey until late in the planning process. By conditioning the bat survey it is possible to proceed with the planning process in the interim.

The problem here is one of consistency, and therefore predictability. As yet we have not heard of any LPA conditioning bat surveys as a matter of policy. Instead individual planning officers appear to be acting on their own, perhaps in response to increasing pressures on local authority funding.