Local development planning and bats in the UK : “an impenetrable fog” ?
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Despite national and international protection, and the focus of conservation biology research, UK bat populations remain under threat from development. Cumulative impacts from development threaten bat populations with the “death of a thousand cuts”: direct mortality; loss of roost spaces; increasing road traffic and wind turbines killing more bats; disturbance, fragmentation and degradation of habitat may increase mortality by reducing fitness. It is timely to investigate the efficacy of conservation measures targeted at protecting bats in local development planning (“development management”), in particular the process of screening planning applications for potential impacts upon bats, acting in resolution of this Human-Wildlife Conflict. Examination of published guidance was combined with review of practitioner experience through Local Planning Authority (LPA) development management staff and bat survey consultants, with the aim of determining weaknesses in principles, mechanisms and resources. Key issues were the lack of political and managerial support, poor enforcement, a lack of expert natural heritage skills, inconsistent interpretation and application of guidelines, and significant gaps in guidance. For one LPA, 22% of sampled planning applications showed a high risk of potential impacts upon bats, yet only 1% had a bat survey undertaken; and 32% of known roost sites had been subject to one or more planning applications in 10 years. Only a few LPAs enjoy excellent access to expert natural heritage skills, biological data and advice from SNCOs. I present a multi-disciplinary synthesis to derive recommendations for process enhancement including seven good design principles, and seven key resources. The foundation to comprehensive adoption and enforcement is clear nationally consistent political support; thus engendering good practice e.g. all UK development applications should declare how biodiversity issues are addressed; research should address bat population dynamics, and responses to development impacts.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
This study was supported by RPS Group plc (Planning & Development)
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