Since Natural England’s “Class Licensing” system was introduced for bats early in 2014, it has caused much confusion. Many bat groups discovered that they were no longer able to undertake the bat box checks and counts at hibernation sites that they had done for years, for example. This is because the standard ‘Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor (VBRV)’ licence only covered visits to householders requesting advice under the Natural England bat advice contract administered by the Bat Conservation Trust. Bat group members wishing to do other types of surveys require a Survey licence at Level 1 or above.
However, many ecological consultants have also been caught out by the changes. For example at Survey Licence level 1 it is clear that this is for disturbance of bats only – precluding any use any equipment other than a hand torch (e.g. endoscope) – and not including handling. What is less clear is that holders of this category of license may not disturb hibernating bats either. So undertaking a survey for hibernating bats requires a survey class 2 licence or above.
Another frequently misunderstood element is that a VBRV trainer cannot provide a reference for a Survey licence on their own. Instead they would have to be one of two referees that hold an equivalent survey licence themselves, both being willing to vouch for the abilities of the applicant.
In order to try and make some sense of the process, I created the summary document above for participants on the Bat Licence Training Course http://www.battraining.co.uk/bat-licence-training-course/ but it has been so well received I have decided to share it more widely. Please use it, share it, and feel free to feedback any comments – especially if there is anything I can add to make it more useful! You can download a PDF of the document here: http://ow.ly/IlUYH
The licensing regime in Wales and Scotland remains unchanged and seems unlikely to go down the Class Licence route.
New opportunities in England will continue as the Low Impact Licence continues to roll out in periodic ‘application windows’ and a new Class Licence to deal with Bats in Churches in being piloted during 2015 to create a limited pool of skilled and experienced ecologists to respond these often challenging buildings.
If you need additional training to train towards a licence, move up a licence level or to add handling skills for example, have a look at the BatTraining Partnership website www.battraining.co.uk