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Natural Environment Conditions
The most common animal to share your property uninvited is the bat. Bats are legally protected. On entering a loft space, or disused attic room, look for evidence of bats. This could include a lack of cobwebs, droppings on the floor, (similar to mouse droppings but which crumble when crushed between fingers) and butterfly wings. If you notice any of these signs, it is better to leave the roof space and contact the local bat group Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or Natural Resources Wales. They will be able to provide you with guidance on whether bats are noted in the area, and some local bat groups may be willing to come and undertake a bat survey.
A bat survey is generally undertaken on several nights over a few weeks at either dusk or dawn. They will use specialist equipment to listen for bats as well as watching for bat activity.
If bats are present in either the roof space, within the roof covering or even located in the cracks between the stone or brick, then when undertaking minor repair works, advice from the local bat group or national agency must be obtained.
When undertaking any construction works, such as re-roofing, or major re-pointing and there is evidence of bats, then a licence will be needed from the national agency, via an accredited ecologist.
Other animals are also protected and you can check the extent in Schedule 2 of The Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994. These include dormice and great crested newts which generally do not effect the maintenance of a building, but are worth considering when undertaking works to an outbuilding or derelict building. Badgers have their own legislation, The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 While badger setts don’t generally interfere with properties, they may cause undermining to boundary walls or to remote out buildings. The national agencies can provide guidance on relocating badger setts if the sett is causing severe harm or damage.
Tree Preservation Orders
If you plan to fell that old oak or remove the branch that knocks against the roof on windy nights, first consider if it might be subject to a Tree Preservation Order. DirectGov provides an online service to help you do this or you can call the local authority.
If the tree is protected you will need first to seek the relevant Department’s consent to do so by contacting the Tree Officer in your local Planning Office, describing the location of the tree and the works required.
Trees in Conservation Areas
Trees in conservation areas have a degree of protection even without a TPO. You must give the Local Authority notice in writing setting out what you want to do to any tree at least six weeks ahead of any actions. In England this is called a ‘section 211 notice’ and it gives the Authority an opportunity to consider protecting the tree.