Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Going Batty

Anyone got one of these?

Tyler is thinking of having some building work done. You know, support the construction industry in these difficult times etc.

But it turns out there could be a problem - a serious problem. With bats.

Bats? Yep. These days, if you're going to do any building that involves disturbing a possible bat roost - like your loft, or the Major's head - you're going to need permission. And that's going to cost.

To start with, you'll need a bat survey from a qualified bat surveyor. At a cost of up to £2 grand, the surveyor comes round to your house in the early hours of the morning, crouches down behind the bins, and looks for bats. Well, not so much looks as detects. Using a bat detector. No, really.

You then get a written report which you have to append to your planning application. Increasingly, planners won't even consider the app without a survey.

And if bats have been found - as they almost certainly will have been - you are going to have to pay some more.

You'll have to apply to quango Natural England for a licence to proceed, spelling out in detail how you propose to mitigate the damage caused to the bats. The application will need to be written by a bat expert at goodness what further cost.

You'll have to lay on alternative bat accommodation, initially at a temporary bat residence (such as the Holiday Bat Inn), and longer-term in your new loft space. Yes, if you're say converting your existing loft, the remodelling will have to incorporate new bat access and a centrally heated roost - right alongside your new bedroom.

What's that? Bats carry rabies?

Well, yes they do. And your point? Under EU habitats directives, bats are protected. You are not.

And it isn't just bats. Great crested newts, TB badgers, and the famous Dartford Warbler are all protected. As is Mrs T's personal favourite the Great Raft Spider.

And trees. Don't even think of assaulting a tree during your building work. Not only can you not fell it, you must also ensure its quality of life isn't harmed. Yes, its quality of life:

"...special conditions may be applied regarding the design of the foundations, or the method of construction. Such conditions should ensure that the tree continues to have a quality of life comparable to that experienced prior to the development." (Swindon Council Tree Protection guidelines).
A tree experiences life? It will be grass next. Grass has been downtrodden for far too long. How can it possibly be acceptable that grass is denied the right to vote?

Now of course, EU rules and planning licences are one thing, the Real World quite another. Out in the Real World what seems to happen is that people planning to apply for planning permission now take scorched earth measures before ever contacting the local council.

Take the discussion on the UK Farming Forum, where one farmer has just been told by local council planners he can't build any new barns today without first getting a £2 grand rare species survey. A fellow farmer advises:
"If you want anything these days then you have to beat them at their silly game. The only way to get it is to first kill off all the vegetation to do away with any rare orchids etc. Then concentrate on the wildlife by finding up some old can of lethal stuff you have hidden away in the garage knowing you might need it one day. Reason you didnt keep it locked in the spray shed was if its found when the b..g.rs come round to inspect then you end up doing time."
Other farmers agree. Whereas they'd once have left those rare orchids in place, these days they're a real liability. Best practice these days is to eradicate them so they can never cause a problem. Same with anything else on an EU list (which may be why the EU now pays billions of OUR FRIGGIN' MONEY to farmers not to farm at all).

On the home front, best advice is to fell all trees within 100 feet of any planned building work before approaching the planners (or clear your entire garden if smaller). And hunt down and destroy any badgers, newts, or warblers within warbling distance.

As for bats, they seem to be a bit trickier. Ultrasonic bat scares don't seem to work. Ditto mothballs. Really bright lights left on 24/7 may work, but then again they may not (plus they can set fire to your loft, which is somewhat less than ideal).

Owls. They may work. They're reportedly the bat's biggest natural predators. But then again, Amazon don't seem to list Owls. And neither do they list racoons or possums.

Which only leaves something promisingly called the Bat Hawk (see pic).

Or snakes. Snakes in the loft. Maybe that's it.

Mrs T thinks I'm going batty. She thinks this has finally tipped me over the edge.

She may be right.

Why do we need EU directives again?

PS Yes, I know - bats are endangered and Tyler should be more responsible. Yes, yes. But in reality not all bats are endangered. The bats most likely to be found in our Surrey loft are pipistrelles, which are very common, with a population that seems to have increased by around two-thirds just in the last decade (see the annual bat survey from the Bat Conservation Trust). The tax-funded Euro-bat industry has got totally out of control, and is now in the process of destroying many of our fine old country churches - see here. Sorry, but in the worng place, bats are a pest.

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