Over the years I have taken aboard many redevelopment projects, most involving the refurbishment or reconstruction of residential property. I am involved with one such development at the moment. The derelict property has been unoccupied for many years and is a state of advanced disrepair. The roof is tumbling in, walls are damaged and the property is covered in ivy. It is a classic haunt for bats.
There are many types of bat…about 1200 world-wide, and 18 are species native to the UK. The smallest of the UK species is the ‘Pipistrelle’ which is about 4 centimetres long weighing up to 9 grams. The largest UK bats are either the ‘Noctule’ or ‘Great Horse Shoe bat’ weighing up to 40 grams. In the summer, cricket bats are often seen on the village green(!) Whilst some bat species are solitary roosters, in some parts of the world they form colonies of up to one million.
Bats are important in the ecological system since they eat insects and they pollinate some plants. It is for these reasons they are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Acts. Other rare similarly protected species of mammal include the great crested newt, badgers and water voles.
Bats hunt for their food on the wing, and are nocturnal, and can often be seen skimming low over hedgerows and expanses of water. They are harmless to humans, and they have a highly developed echo location ability using very high frequency sound.
So why do bats affect the redevelopment process? Where bats are located they have to be notified to the local authority, and works will be halted until certain specialist surveys have been completed.
The process of treating the bats can be both expensive, and time consuming. A development project could be delayed by months and involve expensive remedial works. The potential for delay and uncertainty can have significant financial implications where profit margins are tight. There are a number of specialist surveying firms and initial surveys involving multiple visits to the property and special sonar equipment can cost several hundred pounds. There are severe penalties for the destruction of bat habitat.