It’s being condemned as bureaucracy gone batty: People hoping to develop a house or business premises in Co Cork must pay for experts to carry out bat studies if they want to get planning permission in certain areas — even if there is no evidence the creatures are even present there.
They are also asked to ensure any structure they develop isn’t in a bat’s flightpath.
The mammals are equipped with a echo- location which can pinpoint the tiniest insects in the middle of the night, so critics say it’s highly unlikely a healthy bat would fly into a barn door.
A councillor says he is aware of a number of recent cases where council planning officials have sought comprehensive bat studies to be lodged as part of a planning application.
Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG) described it as “bureaucracy gone mad” and cited incidents where the protection of fauna and flora were getting out of hand, such as the EU directives on hen harriers and, in particular, the freshwater pearl mussel.
The existence of the latter in the River Blackwater has put major development in the north Cork region on hold as sewerage systems in the region are deemed not up to scratch and pollution is affecting the mussels’ breeding capabilities.
In a document seen by the Irish Examiner, the council wrote to a couple in north Cork who wanted to convert a derelict building into a retail unit.
Several conditions were laid down. One of them read: The existing building has the potential to host a bat roost; accordingly you are required to submit a bat survey to identify any potential roosts, commuting routes and feeding areas within the proposed site. Likely impacts of the development (both during construction and ongoing) on roost sites/feeding areas and the significance of such impacts should be addressed in the report.”
Mr Murphy said as far as he and the couple were aware, there had never been a bat colony in the building they planned to develop, or anywhere near it.
He said: “I’ve seen a number of recent planning applicants being asked this kind of information and for a study by experts to confirm the existence or non-existence of bats in the area. These applications, which on the face of it should be simple and straightforward, have suddenly been hit with unexpected demands which lead to the added expense of surveys.
“Anywhere has the potential to house bat colonies. The planning (guidelines adopted by council officials) even states that the development can’t interfere with their flight routes. As far as I’m aware, bats use echo-location whereby ultrasonic sounds allow them to identify exactly what is around them.”
By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes, the bat’s brain and auditory nervous system can produce detailed images of its surroundings. This allows bats to detect, localise, and even classify their prey in complete darkness.
“These creatures have been around for millions of years and they’re obviously very adaptable. They know what they are doing when in flight at night,” said Mr Murphy.
He said nobody denies we have to protect wildlife. “But I think we are over-conscientious about these type of guidelines when compared to other EU countries.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved