Having bats in your loft is rare, especially in cities and towns. If you do have bats in your loft it does not preclude work being done. What it does mean is careful consideration in planning your loft conversion should be considered, especially in terms of the time of year work commences. Therefore the earlier in the process the bats are taken into account the less disruption to building plans there will be.
Bats are also protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which came into force in 1982. There are 17 different species of bats in England, some very rare, others still quite widespread. These fascinating mammals are heavily dependent on buildings as they often use them as roosts at different times of the year. Bats rarely cause any problems when they roost in houses, but if you are worried about their presence or you want to do something that would affect them or their roosts you should contact Natural England for advice. Many householders have lived happily with their bats for many years. If you find bats roosting in your property and are concerned about them, please contact your local Natural England office or the Bat Conservation Trust for free advice. We will usually suggest that a local volunteer or member of staff visits you in order to assess the situation and advise on how any problems can be resolved. If necessary, our representative will explain what remedies are available and assist you in deciding on a suitable course of action. We strongly recommend that you do not take any action until you have received advice, as this could result in an offence being committed.
In some circumstances, Natural England can issue licences under the Habitats Regulations to permit what would otherwise be illegal actions. However, the reasons for which we can issue a licence are limited in law and, furthermore, we can only issue one if you can show there is no alternative way of carrying out the work and that the work will not adversely affect the local bat population. It is generally far better to try to avoid affecting the bats or their roost wherever possible, as described above. If you believe, or have been informed, that a licence will be needed, further information about the application process is available on our website or from our local office.
Because populations of most species have declined in past decades, all British bats have been protected by law since 1982.
This is only a brief summary of the main points of the law, not a complete statement. Further details may be found on www.naturalengland.org.uk
It is always preferable to avoid disturbing bats or damaging their roosts if at all possible. That way no offence is likely to be committed and you help with the conservation of these threatened species.
One situation in which a licence is likely to be needed is where repairs, refurbishment or development within or adjacent to your property, such as a loft conversion or extension, will unavoidably damage or destroy bat roosts. In these circumstances, you should still seek advice from Natural England, but we are likely to recommend that you employ a professional ecological consultant to assist you with the licensing process.
Natural England Wildlife Management and Licensing Service Burghill Road Westbury-on-Trym Bristol, BS10 6NJ Tel: 0845 6014523
1 East Parade Sheffield, S1 2ET
Enquiry Service: 0845 600 3078
Bat Conservation Trust
15 Cloisters House
8 Battersea Park Road
London, SW8 4BG
National Bat Helpline: 0845 1300 228
Visit the LINKS page for more information.