Bats: protection and licences

What you must do to avoid harming bats and when you’ll need a licence.

Applies to England

All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law - they’re European protected species.

You may be able to get a licence from Natural England if you cannot avoid disturbing them or damaging their habitats, or if you want to survey or conserve them.

What you must not do

You’re breaking the law if you do certain things including:

  • deliberately capture, injure or kill bats
  • damage or destroy a breeding or resting place
  • obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places
  • possess, sell, control or transport live or dead bats, or parts of them
  • intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat while it’s in a structure or place of shelter or protection

Either or both of the following could happen if you’re found guilty of any offences:

  • you could be sent to prison for up to 6 months
  • you could get an unlimited fine

Activities that can harm bats

Activities that can affect bats include:

  • renovating, converting or demolishing a building
  • cutting down or removing branches from a mature tree
  • repairing or replacing a roof
  • repointing brickwork
  • insulating or converting a loft
  • installing lighting in a roost, or outside if it lights up the entrance to the roost
  • removing ‘commuting habitats’ like hedgerows, watercourses or woodland
  • changing or removing bats’ foraging areas
  • using insecticides or treating timber

In many cases you should be able to avoid harming the bats or damaging or blocking access to their habitats. You’ll need an expert to do a bat survey. You can find one using the:

The survey will show what type, how many and how the bats are using the building or area so you can plan to avoid harming them.

Bat licences

If you cannot avoid harming bats or their habitats, you can apply for a mitigation licence from Natural England.

You need a licence from Natural England for other activities, including:

  • surveying
  • research
  • possessing bats
  • some conservation activities

Find out what’s involved for construction that affects protected species.

Ecological consultants can register to use a class licence that may avoid the need for an individual licence for certain low impact activities.

Bat roosts

Contact the bat helpline if you:

  • think you have a bat roost in or near your house or place of worship and you want to do small scale works or pest control
  • have any concerns about the bats

They will give you advice and where appropriate can arrange for one of Natural England’s volunteer bat roost visitors to inspect your property.

This is a free service for small-scale building works that do not need planning permission.

Published 8 October 2014
Last updated 29 March 2015 + show all updates
  1. Fully updated in consultation with Natural England.

  2. The links for more detail on surveys and mitigation are now higher up in the guide.

  3. Minor amendments to the guidance on emergence and re-entry surveys, and replacement roosts.

  4. First published.