What builders need to know about bats...
IN recent weeks, a number of readers, including two builders, have asked me about bats in buildings.
In the case of the builders, they had discovered bats were roosting in the roof of a house as they were about to start a job, and their question was: “Can we carry on?”
The following information, should help them and will hopefully be of interest to all readers.
Bat roosts are protected, even when the bats are absent. It is important that you can recognise a roost and know what to do and who to contact.
Many species of bats are endangered or threatened, so both UK and European legislation gives them full protection. It is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take bats or intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy their roosts or disturb bats.
Because bats tend to return to the same roosts each year, these sites are protected whether the bats are present or not.
In dwelling-houses where there is a bat roost, the law allows you to carry out building maintenance or remedial operations. However, you must notify www.naturalengland.org. uk in advance and allow them time to advise whether the operation should be carried out and, if so, the method and timing of the work.
Such actions include renovation or any application of pesticides such as for wasps nests, or remedial timber treatment. Early consultation, preferably at the survey stage, can help avoid delays and the illegal killing of bats, or the unnecessary destruction of their roosts. In urgent cases advice can often be given by the Bat Conservation Trust.
If any readers have any questions about bats – whether builders or not, they can contact the Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228.
Jamie Eastham of the Trust said: “We have a bats and built environment officer, who works directly with the building sector to promote good practice and encourage batfriendly building, and also to help find solutions.”
He said they also had an investigations officer who worked hard to educate the building sector about bats.
“Our charity also runs professional training courses for builders.”
Where you propose work to buildings that are not dwellings, such as churches and barns, you need to consult – as appropriate – the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs - Defra.
All UK bats are small, eat insects and rarely damage property.
They roost in a variety of places including buildings and house roofs and may form colonies or be found singly or in small groups.
You may find bats in buildings at any time of the year, though they are most commonly found in summer when some species form maternity colonies. When bats use buildings, they usually conceal themselves in crevices, behind roofing felt, in cavity walls or under ridge tiles.
They are not often seen in the roof space. Two species of horseshoe bat, both rare and found only in England and Wales, sleep hanging free by their feet. The remainder may do this rarely but more commonly cling on with thumbs and feet or squeeze into crevices.
You can expect to find bats in all kinds of buildings and you should be aware that almost any roof or building is a potential bat roost.
Bats will usually be in or about the roof but may also roost in other parts.
You should therefore, as a matter of course, check for the presence of bat droppings and bats before carrying out any work.
In a small roof, five minutes spent specifically on this check would find an established roost.
In a larger building about the same time should be spent on each roof section. The search can then be continued at the same time as other work.
The key feature to look for is the presence of droppings. These are dark brown or black and between 4 and 8mm long – the same size or slightly larger than a grain of rice.
A pipistrelle bat in flight at night time
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop