National Grid has teamed up with the University of the West of England (UWE) to start a unique, jointly-funded, full-time PhD project to research the most effective ways to mitigate construction impact on bats.
The research findings will be applied on future major construction projects and used by local planning authorities across the UK.
Bats are large in number in Somerset with 17 of the 18 species of British bat found in the county, including in the Burnham-On-Sea area.
PhD Project lead and ‘bat man’ Jack Hooker, pictured, says: “Bats are vital for maintaining the health of our ecosystems, yet mitigation work is often costly, time-consuming and its effectiveness is rarely tested.”
“The focus of the project is on minimising the impacts of habitat fragmentation, where parts of a habitat are reduced and isolated, leaving behind smaller unconnected areas scattered across the landscape, which risks further loss of diversity and abundance of our wildlife.”
“We rarely see, or have the opportunity to study, the scale of mitigation work provided on Hinkley Connection Project, both in terms of the applied conservation goals and the design of reproducible and functional bat flyways.”
A large part of Jack’s time between now and September will be spent on site monitoring bat flyways in situ along the route of the underground cables through the Mendip Hills area of outstanding natural beauty.
It is hoped that the project will mean future conservation strategies for bats in the construction industry are cost-effective, reliable and evidence based.
Jack adds: “I want to come up with a fully-tested mitigation strategy that is cost efficient, time effective and easy to achieve, so that it’s a win-win for developers and the local wildlife.”
The news comes as Bat Appreciation Day us set to be held on Saturday (17th April).
On the Hinkley Connection Project – which will connect Hinkley Point C and other low carbon energy sources to National Grid’s network, measures include the installation of 2.5km of bat flyways, several bat boxes, and the construction of purpose-built homes for them.
Project Director for National Grid, James Goode says: “Bat populations have suffered from declining numbers over the last century.”
“To counter this and to mitigate the impact of our work in the area, we are already working hard to provide dedicated places for bats to roost and flyways to help them navigate.”
“We hope our partnership with UWE will help to transform ways of working in the construction industry and help to protect the UK’s vulnerable bat populations for years to come.”