Country houses for sale

Where the wild things are: Bats, badgers and newts

If you’re looking to alter, extend or convert a house, barn or outbuildings, it’s not just planning permission you’ll need. With more stringent European regulations now in force, surveys of bats, badgers, newts and other species will be required earlier than before, and you’ll have to make sure they’re accommodated into your proposals.

Many building projects have been halted because of a colony of bats, or a Great Crested Newt living in the line of fire. It’s not an option to dismiss such legislation as being unnecessary, as it’s there for good reason, and providing you are aware of the regulations and know how to deal with them appropriately, they seldom stop a development. For those who ignore the law or plead ignorance, judges take a dim view and criminal proceedings may follow, as to contravene the wildlife regulations is a criminal offence.

We factor in these issues when designing and planning projects with clients, in fact I know too much about the intimate habits of bats and the nesting season of house martins that I have to remind myself that at Yiangou we are architects, not conservation experts.

In the past, only an initial survey was needed. Now two are often required: a wildlife survey when we are working on a building design and before the planning application, then an emergence survey on species which the wildlife survey has identified as potentially living on site, such as bats, newts and badgers – even crayfish living in watercourses running through a proposed development.   Both surveys must be undertaken by a licensed and qualified ecologist.

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Neither of these are real problems, because we will mitigate based on the emergence survey and will design in homes for bats (pipistrel bats can live a 10mm gap underneath the eaves of a house, a horseshoe bat requires a larger space, both make friendly tenants), avoid a badger’s front doors (badger setts can run for hundreds of metres underground and have many entrances around which an exclusion zone must be fenced) and build a new home for newts; which not only live in ponds but in anywhere there is water, including old swimming pools, although in a newt’s case we are required to build a new habitat double the size of the old.

Like so much else in life, the way to ensure that none of this becomes problematic is timing.

If you decide to embark on a renovation or extension project in September, it will be spring (May) until an emergence survey can take place, and if you miss this window of opportunity (May-September, or early October) it will be another year before the project can move forward.

A good architect will design your home and plan the project so that time isn’t lost in survey work. Getting a newt license, for instance, takes at least thirty days, and we can only apply when the design work is done.

When we have received the required licenses on a project we waste no time in getting to work. If it’s a large project, sometimes it is split in two: An enabling contract to strip roofs and demolish any buildings and to include the wildlife mitigation, then the work itself, because if we delay and a building is left open to the elements (windows, doors – anywhere wildlife can enter), over a further season, bats may move back in or house martins build new nests and believe it or not, you may have to start the entire wildlife mitigation process all over again.

Some useful information resources…

* Natural England
* Bat Conservation Trust
* The Wildlife Trusts

Neil Quinn is a Conservation Architect and Partner at Yiangou Architects, which was established in the Cotswolds in 1981. From its base in the historic town of Cirencester, the practice specialises in high quality residential construction using both traditional and contemporary materials. The practice’s team of eight qualified architects is equally at home working with Grade I Listed or contemporary buildings, supported by a well-qualified and experienced team of technicians and technical co-ordinators. In recent years the practice has expanded and projects now extend nationwide. The company can also manage new projects from design through to building completion.

This is an article from ProjectBook which provides a wide range of information for the conservation, restoration, care and repair of period and listed buildings. Yiangou Architects are members of the Heritage Register which contains over 500 vetted craftsmen, contractors and consultants from all over the UK.

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