7th February 2012

In December 2011, the Government announced it would undertake a review of the implementation of the EU Habitats Directive in England through the Habitat Regulations; key legislation which protects bats and their habitats. The Habitat Regs provide an essential mechanism for safeguarding vulnerable species and habitats whilst ensuring social and economic needs are met. They provide the framework needed to drive conservation through regulatory systems, scientific monitoring and evidence gathering. In the case of bats, the adoption and enforcement of structured legislation has been fundamental to fighting persecution. BCT believes that the focus of the review should be to strengthen best practice and refine implementation with an overall aim of meeting the Biodiversity 2020 targets.

BCT have now submitted recommendations and case studies illustrating ways in which the current system can be improved. Our submission reinforces the need for a combination of good standards of professional practice supported by well informed decision making to achieve this aim. An outline of the full submission can be found on the consultation pages. The following is a summary of the overarching points raised.

  1. Improve the quality and consistency of advice and implementation across the sector:
    • Endorse and enforce current professional standards and introduce a class licensing system that could allow low level works to take place with minimum bureaucracy, in a more cost-effective way: Training and professional standards should be introduced and more rigorous assessments and earned recognition class licences applied to individuals seeking to obtain personal European Protected Species (EPS) Licences
    • Develop mitigation protocols that can be submitted with planning applications: Local planning authorities charged with the review and assessment of planning applications should have direct access to ecological advice and systems in place to improve efficiency
    • Provide improved technical support to local decision making bodies: Local planning authorities must have access to expert ecologists to help them make informed decisions, either in-house or via service level agreements with neighbouring authorities.
  2. Make better use of existing support structures:
    • Provision of training that ensures simultaneous raising of professional standards and volunteer skill set to extend the volunteer remit: Better training and investment in the volunteer support networks that currently alleviate burdens on the householder.
  3. Gather evidence to increase knowledge base and influence future best practice:
    • Utilise existing tools and expertise to inform and improve systems: Post construction monitoring and reporting standards should be improved to yield meaningful information and results that go beyond the current statutory reporting and feed in to the development of good practice
    • Develop new approaches to mitigation based on scientific evidence: New approaches that safeguard species populations and streamline licencing requirements in marginal cases and low status roosts/sites are needed in order to alleviate excessive burdens and safeguard populations
  4. Make informed decisions based on existing data:
    • Develop tools to guide local decision making: Approaches for predictive mapping using existing data and favourable conservation status (FCS) should be used to inform local decisions that are linked to national objectives to provide greater foresight, predictability and consistency
  5. Make informed decisions based on wildlife crime enforcement data - There needs to be more robust reporting and monitoring of data on conservation threats:
    • Record wildlife crime more effectively: Wildlife crimes should be recorded and monitored effectively in order to produce meaningful information on the extent of infringements and the major threats
    • Review approaches to sentencing: Sentencing should be based more effectively on the context and reparation sought in creative ways that are both dissuasive and proportionate.