Just Batty or passionate about protecting wildlife?
It may depend on what you are trying to achieve, but the law is clear. You could face prosecution if you demolish a building which is a roosting site for bats, even though you may have been ordered to remove it for contravening planning law. You are well and truly between a rock and a hard place. As one of the hundreds of animals and plants protected under the European Union’s 1992 habitat directive various species of bat are classified as “European Protected Species”. The directive lists types of habitats and animal and plant species which must be given legal protection by Member States.
It is a criminal offence for anyone deliberately to kill, injure or handle a bat, to possess a bat (whether live or dead), disturb a roosting bat, or sell a bat, unless they have obtained a licence. It is also an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place used by bats for shelter, whether they are present or not at the time. These offences carry a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a £5,000 fine.
It is possible to obtain a licence to move bats. However, a licence can only be granted if there is no satisfactory alternative and it will not be detrimental to the population of the species concerned. Licences are granted by Natural England (or its equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). You’ll need a professional bat removal consultant. The Bat Conservation Trust has a help line and is a good place to start.
However, the UK Law Commission thinks the law may have to change. It has acknowledged that the legal framework for wildlife management is overly complicated and does not always work terribly well. It is carrying out a review of UK wildlife law and we may see draft reforming legislation being published sometime next year.
Here’s a little known fact. A small brown bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in a single hour, and is one of the world’s longest-lived mammals for its size, with life spans of almost 40 years. Also, giant flying foxes that live in Indonesia have wingspans of nearly six feet! That really would be a case of leave well alone!