Bat record data – where is the best place to access data for development?

Brown Long-eared Bat © Ed Austin

Bats make use of houses, barns and bridges for roost sites. Bats and their roosts are protected by law and should be considered during the planning process. A roost is defined as any place that a wild bat uses for shelter or protection, and the roost is protected whether bats are present in it or not.

When undertaking any building or development work it is important to consider whether or not bats may be present.  A data search from TVERC will help ecologists and developers decide whether or not bats are likely to be roosting in the local area by providing records of existing bat roosts and flying bat records.

However, some consultants have told TVERC that they do not routinely get bat data searches, as they can use other sources of information.  We decided to analyse the quality and quantity of bat data available from open sources.

The primary source of openly available bat records is Natural England. They have a dataset called “Natural England bat roost visit records from 2013 onwards” available for download on the NBN Gateway, from which 258 records are within Oxfordshire and Berkshire (Figure 2).  These records are available under an Open Government Licence and can therefore be used commercially.

Further records are available to view but not download on the DEFRA Magic portal, with contains approximately 1100 species that are in the category ‘Granted European Protected Species Applications (England)’, many of which are bats (Figure 4).

It is possible to download a pdf with limited information (Figure 3) but it is not possible to download the data spatially or in a spreadsheet/database format, nor is it possible to restrict this download to one taxon group.  Therefore it is hard to tell without manually counting from a PDF how many of these are bat records. 

TVERC, in contrast, have 23,934 bat records, which are sent with a wealth of information including the species, abundance, sex, stage, data origin, protective legislations for that species, grid reference, etc. These records are widespread throughout Berkshire and Oxfordshire (Figure 1) and cover a far greater area than the records available from Natural England, both from the Magic portal and from the NBN Database. TVERC compared the number of records provide by TVERC against those available from Natural England for some data searches we carried out (Table 1).

For those example searches, there were a maximum of 5 bat records available from Natural England sources, and in some cases there were no records available at all.  In contrast, TVERC was able to supply up to 276 bat records within the search area.

It is clear then that accessing bat data from TVERC provides a wealth of information to ecologists and developers which will help ensure bats are properly considered as part of the planning process.  Failure to do so may mean significant delays to securing planning permission and subsequent development and risk possible prosecution under European legislation.  As an ecologist you should not be at a competitive disadvantage from doing your job properly, which includes having access to the best available, most up-to-date and quality assured data.

To request access to TVERC data, please submit a request via our website: http://www.tverc.org/cms/content/data-searches

Posted: June 3, 2019