You need extra space in your home and have decided that a loft conversion is the best way to go but to your surprise, you discover that bats have decided to setup home in your attic space. Did you know that bats are a protected species and you can’t proceed with your build while they remain in your home. So what do you do next?
Bats and the law
Bats and their roosts are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, providing them legal protection. This means that you can not:
- deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat
- deliberately disturb a bat in a way that would affect its ability to survive, breed or rear young or hibernate/migrate
- damage or destroy a roost
- possess, control, transport, sell, exchange or offer for sale/exchange any live or dead bat or any part of a bat
It is not illegal for someone to:
- capture a disabled bat solely for the purpose of tending it and releasing it when no longer disabled as long as the person can show that it was not disabled unlawfully
- humanely kill a bat as long as that person can show the bat was so seriously disabled, other than by his/her own unlawful act, that there was no reasonable chance of it recovering
More information about bats and the law can be found here.
Getting a bat survey
Your next step should be to arrange a bat survey by a qualified ecologist. If there’s no evidence of bats, you can continue with your loft conversion. If the survey shows that bats are present, your ecologist will:
- assess the impacts of your development
- adjust the plans if possible
- arrange mitigation strategies to reduce or compensate for any damage
- tell you if you need a mitigation licence from Natural England
The cost of commissioning a bat survey starts at around £250. The price will depend on the size and scale of your build. You can search for a qualified ecologist here.
The survey discovered bats. What are my options?
If possible, the easiest option is to let the bats remain in your loft. Your ecologist should be able to determine if your build can commence around the bats. One idea is to create an accessible area of loft space designated for the purpose, like a bat room. More information about living with bats can be found here.
If the bat survey determines that there is no way to convert your loft without disturbing the bats, you will need to apply for a mitigation licence.
Applying for a licence should be your last resort and only applies to a minority of cases. Your ecologist should help you with your application, and develop mitigation plans to reduce any negative effects. You’ll need to include the survey findings, impact assessments and mitigation plans (to reduce harm to the species) with your mitigation licence application.