Where a bat roost is known to occur on the site of a proposed development, the National Parks and Wildlife Service or a trained bat worker should be contacted for advice. It is an offence to intentionally disturb, kill or injure a bat or its resting place, so any work must be carried out with advice and under licence from the NPWS in the Republic of Ireland or the NIEA in Northern Ireland. Local Authorities have a duty of care to ensure that bat roosts are protected and that the conservation status of protected species, such as bats, is not negatively affected in the planning process. They may request a bat survey, even if none have been recorded before, if they feel that the habitat or buildings on a site proposed for development or planning permission have bat potential.
Best practice guidelines for how to mitigate against possible negative impacts of development were drawn up by Kelleher and Marnell in 2006. Specific guidelines for national road development were published by the National Roads Authority also in 2006.
Currently the standards for bat surveys varies greatly and may sometimes be hampered by survey timing. Bat surveys should ideally be carried out during summer when bats are most active, unless the site is thought to be important for hibernating bats in which case a survey during cold weather in winter is ideal.
Bat Conservation Ireland has developed guidelines for how to deal with the Annex II protected lesser horseshoe bat in the Appropriate Assessment process. These guidelines have been devised for developers, ecologists and relevant authorities.
We have also produced guidelines for carrying out bat surveys at proposed wind farm sites.
Developments of over a certain size or nature are required to submit an Environmental Impact Statement with the application for planning permission. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a report which describes the present environment on a site and the possible impacts that the new development will have on it. Measures that should be taken to minimise or prevent negative impacts are also recommended. There are various sections, each of which should be completed by a competent expert in the field, such as Noise, Air, Archaeology and Flora and Fauna.
Under the Flora and Fauna section the current EPA guidelines (Advice Notes on Current Practice in the Preparation of EIS, 2003) recommend that protected species or Red Data Listed Species should be identified and described within the area of the proposed development. All Irish bats are protected and all are listed in the Red Data Book of Irish Mammals so in most cases should be included in a fauna survey for an EIS. Guidelines for the Information to be Contained in an EIS (2003) indicate that
- Feeding and roosting areas
- Population stability management
- Critical resources and
- Protection status
- should be covered in an EIS.
For more details on these Guidelines see www.epa.ie