24th August 2022

URGENT call for help – the laws protecting bats are under threat again

Whiskered bat chasing mosquito

The State of Nature report in 2016 described Britain as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and the more recent 2019 report painted a similarly depressing picture. The 2016 report also stated that: “A combination of legislation and education has assisted the partial recovery of a number of bat species.” Rather than celebrating what has been achieved and building on it, the government is considering undermining one of the few conservation successes it has been involved with to date as it looks at repealing or weakening legislation protecting bats and other wildlife, namely the Habitats Regulations. The loss of this protection would be devastating to the natural heritage that wildlife species represent. We need your help to make sure that the new prime minister and the government understand why removing this protection would be disastrous for our wildlife. Nature’s recovery is something the UK government has committed to domestically and on the international stage; its rhetoric needs to be reflected in its actions. This is particularly true now, as we approach the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in December.

The Habitats Regulations have provided a legal framework that developers, landowners and other sectors understand. Responsible businesses value the clarity they have provided. The last independent government review of the Habitats Regulations was carried out in 2018 and concluded that the challenges associated with the protection of internationally important bat populations in England arise from how the legislation that protect bats is implemented, and not with the laws themselves (Review of the legislation protecting wildlife). There are multiple ways in which those improvements to implementation are being addressed. For example, we are working with Natural England and CIEEM on improving the licensing process, including a pilot for an Earned Recognition scheme (see: EARNED RECOGNITION). Another example is the wildlife assessment check which helps to simplify, streamline and improve the consideration of biodiversity in the UK planning process for householders and small to medium-scale developers. We need to build on what the laws have helped us achieve rather than scrapping them.

The latest National Bat Monitoring Programme report published earlier this year shows at least three of Britain’s 17 breeding bat species are showing some signs of recovery at the national scale (SEE: Britain’s bats edging towards recovery) although there are important regional variations for species such as the common pipistrelle that warrant further research (Local variations in fortunes of common pipistrelle – emerging patterns). In addition to local variations, several bat species remain at risk of extinction (Bat species at risk of extinction). The abandoning of the Habitats Regulations will accelerate the decline of the species already at risk as well as undermine the conservation status of other species across even larger areas of the UK.

Kit Stoner, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust said: “The positive results we are recording via the National Bat Monitoring Programme indicate that strong legal protection works, and conservation action to protect and conserve bats is achieving success. It is vitally important that this continues.”

How can you help?

Please contact your MP, by either asking for a face-to-face meeting, phoning them, emailing, or writing to them. We have created a template letter/email which can be downloaded from HERE. You can find the contact details for your local MP HERE (remember to include your address so they know you are a constituent). Please let us know if you have contacted your MP by emailing us on comms@bats.org.uk