Even if planning permission is not required, it is important to consider protected species that may be living in a building, particularly where demolition is proposed. A Habitats Regulations license from NRW may be required if protected species are present.
Barns and other farm buildings are an attractive home to both birds and bats. Such buildings are often in rural areas and are therefore likely to be close to favoured feeding sites.
Bats may roost in any sort of building and different species will favour different places. Cracks in stone walls, gaps in timbers, open barns or simply an enclosed roof space are all areas some bats may use. When undertaking a barn conversion, it is very likely that a survey for bats will be required before planning can be approved. It is essential to identify the species of bat(s) present and how they are using the building. This will affect the timing of work and what features must be built into the design to allow the bats to continue to use the building.
A survey and appropriate mitigation can be produced by a licensed and experienced bat ecologist. Survey work should be planned early; it can save the time and expense of changing plans as well as delays to work programmes. There are many ways to accommodate bats in buildings, depending on the species present.
Any works affecting bats are likely to require a Habitats Regulations licence issued by NRW.
Nesting birds may also be present in farm buildings. A survey for the presence of nesting birds, particularly barn owls, should be undertaken early so that mitigation can be accommodated on architectural drawings. Barn owls are often found in barns; they are incredibly faithful to their nesting sites and need a large area of suitable foraging habitat around the nest site. Buildings where they choose to nest are very important and they may not survive if forced to move on. It is generally straight forward to accommodate a barn owl box within a converted barn; further guidance is provided by the Barn Owl Trust.
Other birds such as house martins and swallows may also use farm buildings. They and their nests are also protected during the nesting season so work should be carried out after they have left. A variety of purpose made nests or nesting ledges can be easily included in a building design.
House extensions, refurbishment and roofing
Bats and birds may be encountered during works such as loft conversions, installation of roof lights and construction of extensions as well as general works to roofs. Please use this checklist-flow chart to assess whether you are likely to need a bat survey to accompany a planning application for this kind of development. Further guidance can also be sought from Natural Resources Wales.
View more information on best practice on accommodating bats in buildings on the Bat Conservation Trust website.
More information on bats and planning.