I’ve Got Bats In My Loft – Can I Still Convert It?
The short answer to this question is – usually – yes but you should be aware that discovering bats in your loft space may cause some delays and result in additional expenditure to your loft conversion project.
Why are bats so special?
Bats are one of the protected species listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which means you can’t:
- Kill, injure, or remove a bat;
- Own or control a living or dead bat, or anything derived from a bat;
- Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy, or obstruct access to any area used as shelter or protection by a bat, for example, build a loft conversion where they roost;
- Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat when it’s occupying a structure or place i.e. a loft space.
How do I know we definitely have bats?
Unlike other animals and vermin which tend to leave obvious signs of their presence in your home, it may be harder to confirm whether or not you actually have bats roosting in your loft space. If you suspect you do, you should consider commissioning a bat survey before you apply for planning permission any proposed building work.
Common signs that there are bats present in your loft space include:
- A regular ‘chattering’ noise around dusk.
- Sightings of bats around your house or in your loft space.
- Bat droppings in your loft (they look similar to mouse or rat droppings).
- The remnants of dead insects (bats don’t tend to eat the wings)
- A musty smell (like ammonia)
- No cobwebs
- Scratch marks near entry points
Bats like buildings with accessible spaces such as large, warm (i.e. south-facing) roof voids and those that are close to woodland or waterways, which is their natural feeding habitat. They don’t like small, cold roof spaces, modern, urban homes (that aren’t easy for them to access) or bright lighting.
Who do I need to tell?
If you are planning a loft extension that may threaten – or even just disturb – the bats’ habitat then you will need to consult your local planning officer about how you will conserve or rehome the bat colony. This may sound daunting but in the majority of cases, it is possible to build your loft conversion without harming the bat population.
A bat survey will only be necessary if there is a ‘reasonable likelihood’ of bats being present at your property e.g. if they are agricultural buildings, buildings with weatherboarding and/or hanging tiles or pre-1960s detached buildings within 200m of woodland or a waterway, or pre-1914 buildings with gable ends, slate roofs, or within 400m of woodland or water. Other building characteristics may also apply.
Only a fully trained and licensed professional can conduct a bat survey. Don’t be tempted to try and investigate the issue yourself as you could be committing an offence by disturbing the bats.
What does a bat survey involve?
Bat surveys need to be carried out when bats are active (i.e. not in hibernation) which is usually between May and October. A bat survey should be conducted by a professional – and licensed – ecologist, in order for it to be accepted by your local planning authority.
There are two stages to bat surveys; first the preliminary survey to assess the likelihood of bats being present. If this survey does not conclusively rule out the presence of bats then a second, full survey will be required.
A full survey, which is likely to cost in the region of £1,000 include the use of infra-red cameras, radars and bat detectors to monitor activity over a period of time. This will confirm the type of bat species and their activity patterns. This survey will then need to be presented alongside your planning application.
I’ve got bats, so now what do I do?
A professional will be able to advise whether it is possible to rehome the bats. This will involve applying for a mitigation licence, setting out what building work you plan to carry out and how you will protect the bats in the process. Licenses are overseen by Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations.
If your building work includes re-roofing, measures will typically involve new bat access points to replace those that already exist (however informally). These can include ‘bat access sets’ which are purpose-designed roof and ridge titles that enable access and airflow.
If a bat roost is to be moved then more elaborate measures may come into play, such as a ‘new-build’ roost – think of a fancy shed with heating and insulation.
The type of measure will also depend on the species of bat that is present. A roost occupied by a single male bat is a much simpler scenario to accommodate than a female colony.
More information about bats in buildings, and how to accommodate them, can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust website. If you’re worried that bats may impact your building work then please contact us and we can put you in contact with a professional ecologist and advise you on the best way forward for your loft conversion.