Its November. It’s grey. It’s getting cold – most of us will be looking for our woolly jumpers and making plans to dig in and hibernate for the next few months – as will our nation’s bats.

If you are thinking of building or converting an existing building – bats may not the be the first thing you will consider. However, as Julian McAlster, Senior Architectural Technologist commented from the drawing room as I was chatting away about bats whilst writing this – “by taking bats into consideration before starting work, you will save a lot of costs and hassle further down the design and build process”. DPA have worked on many conversions of old barns and agricultural buildings – barns being the top location for bats when they are starting to look for places to roost. This is because these buildings, typically, have exposed vertical beams and plenty of nooks and crannies for which to crawl into, if they are crevice dwelling bats.

Like us, bats desire shelter that is clean and dry, free of parasites and with secure access which is free from predators. However, that is perhaps where the similarity ends. Temperature is very important to bats and they look for warm roosts in the summer, when they are looking after their young, and cooler roosts in the winter – which is their hibernation and “torpor” or slowing down stage.

Of course, bats haven’t always lived in buildings – their natural habitat is a canopy of trees – about half the bat species in the world use holes in trees for roosting. But a loss of natural roosts has increased the importance of man-made structures for bats – in the form of mines, bridges, houses, barns etc. And in fact, humans and bats have lived quite harmoniously for thousands of years.

Over the years, a decline in the number of our UK bats mean that all bats are now protected by legislation. The Wildlife and Countryside Act came into force in 1981, followed by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000, amended to form the Conservations, Habitats and Species Regulations Act 2010. This makes it illegal to recklessly kill bats, to disturb them by obstructing access to their roosts, to destroy the roosts – whether occupied by bats or not – or try to move or capture them.

Check out this checklist of what to do if you are planning to build or convert and you want to check your bat status. Even if you have bats – there will always be a way to keep humans and bats happy. Julian recalled designing a barn conversion complete with a “bat loft” – of which the owners were delighted!

  • Remember that bat surveys can only be completed in a specific time window – usually by the end of August.
  • If you are planning on doing any work on a property that requires planning permission, then an ecological consultant will be needed. The ecological consultant will carry out the survey and write a method statement on behalf of the person proposing the work. DPA can work closely with the consultant on any issues!
  • You can contact the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management to find a consultant in your local area.
  • If you are doing remedial work on a dwelling that does not require planning permission or building consent, you will need to contact your statutory nature conservation organisations (SNCOs). This can be done through the National Bat Helpline – 03451300228
  • A whole “roost” of information can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust Website, as well as the Shropshire Bat Group on Facebook.
  • Visit  www.nhbs.com for a range of bat boxes and advice.