Further to the announcement by Natural England last month that they were introducing charges for dormouse mitigation licences, plans have now been unveiled for the next wave of protected species licence charges, this time focusing on certain bat licences. The announcement is part of a larger wave of changes being implemented by Natural England to create a new revenue stream, purported to bring about better outcomes for wildlife. Further announcements due to affect badger mitigation licences are expected in May, with more to come in respect of great crested newts and other protected species later on in the year.
For the time being the recently announced changes will only apply to Bat EPS mitigation licences (A13), Bat science and conservation licences (A34) where used for development or filming purposes, and Bat mitigation class licence site registrations (CL21). Changes will take affect from 23rd April 2019 and will follow a similar approach to the dormouse mitigation licence charges brought in at the beginning of this month.
So what are the charges?
For the Bat EPS mitigation licence (A13), one of the most ubiquitous licence applications, charges will be split between a fixed charge, for less complex applications, and a variable charge for more complex applications. Less complex applications should be for single phase and single site developments, not in or near a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and for particular widespread/common species and roost combinations, which will be subject to the fixed charge rate of £500 per application.
For typically larger developments a variable charge is likely to apply. The exact cost will be calculated using the Charge Form submitted alongside the Application Form or Site Registration Form, and will be subject to a charge of £101 per hour for the time taken to review the application, plus an additional one off charge of £183 which will go towards the cost of compliance monitoring. Any additional licence assessment work resulting from a Further Information Request (FIR) will also be charged at the aforementioned hourly rate.
An estimate of the cost of the licence may be requested using the Charge Form to give a Price Indication, which is non-binding and will be provided by Natural England within 15 working days of the applications submission. Once this has been agreed typical times for licence application processing will apply (around 30 days) at which point the licence will be issued.
Bat science and conservation licences (A34) and Bat mitigation class licence site registrations (CL21) will follow the same procedure, however different charges will apply; a Bat science and conservation licence used for development purposes (A34) will be subject to a variable charge based on an hourly rate of £101, plus a charge of £61 which will go towards the cost of compliance monitoring, whereas the Bat mitigation class licence site registration (CL21) will be charged at a fixed price of £130.
Are there exemptions?
There are a number of exemptions to charges worth being aware of, such as those in the interest of preserving public health and safety, preventing serious damage to property or the spread of disease, and those in the interest of science, education, nature conservation or historic building conservation. Exemptions also apply for small home improvements such as loft conversions, extensions, garages and conservatories, typically with Householder Planning Consent.
In addition, an exemption will apply for conserving a bat roost in situ. This will be introduced to fit in with wider policy objectives and will encourage conserving roosts by avoiding impacts upon them and their surroundings. The exemption applies when a roost will be retained within a structure, with the large majority of its characteristics carried over from pre-development, such as retaining original building materials, using bat friendly roofing felt and retaining existing roost entry points and existing light levels. Natural England will confirm whether or not any of these exemptions apply during the course of the licence determination and, in the case of the ‘conserving a bat roost in situ’ exemption, dependent on the Method Statement submitted alongside the application.
Keeping you informed
We will be getting to grips with the new licencing charges as they come on stream this spring but clearly there are some significant cost considerations to note here which clients will wish to be aware of! We will update this article as new charges are announced.