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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Retain existing bat roosts and access points within developments Bat Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • Two studies evaluated the effects of retaining existing bat roosts and access points within developments on bat populations. One study was in Ireland and one in the UK.




  • Use (2 studies): One before-and-after study in Ireland found similar numbers of brown long-eared bats roosting within an attic after existing access points were retained during renovations. One replicated, before-and-after study in the UK found that four of nine bat roosts retained within developments were used as maternity colonies, in two cases by similar or greater numbers of bats after development had taken place.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A before-and-after study in 2004–2008 of one building renovation in Ireland (Aughney 2008) found that retaining four existing bat access points, along with restricting the timing of roofing work, resulted in similar numbers of brown long-eared bats Plecotus auritus using a roost within an attic before and after renovations. Fifteen brown long-eared bats were counted roosting in the attic space of the building before the renovation work. After the renovation work, sixteen brown long-eared bats were recorded exiting the roost through the retained access points. The building was an 18th century Georgian house that had the roofing felt and roof slates replaced. Original access points to the roost within the attic of the building were retained by installing four vents in the ridge tiles. The renovations were completed outside of the maternity season (date not reported). The attic was surveyed once in 2004 before the renovations, and once with an emergence survey in September 2008 after the renovations.


A replicated, before-and-after study in 2011–2015 of nine bat maternity roosts retained within building developments across Scotland, UK (Mackintosh 2016) found that four of nine retained roosts were used by maternity colonies after development, and two of the roosts were used by greater or similar numbers of bats. Average roost counts before and after development at the four roosts either remained stable (before: 2 brown long-eared bats Plecotus auritus; after: 2 brown long-eared bats), increased by 7% (before: 476 soprano pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus; after 507 soprano pipistrelles), decreased by 39% (before: 341 soprano pipistrelles; after: 208 soprano pipistrelles), or could not be counted (use inferred from brown long-eared bat droppings only). The other five roosts were not used at all (two brown long-eared bat roosts, two common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus roosts) or had signs of use by bats at a later date (one whiskered bat Myotis mystacinus roost). Original roosts were either retained (seven sites) or partially retained (two sites), and original access points were reinstated. The numbers of bats counted before development at each roost were extracted from reports submitted with licence applications. Bats were counted at each roost after development during at least one dusk emergence or dawn re-entry survey between May and September 2015.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Berthinussen, A., Richardson O.C. and Altringham J.D. (2019) Bat Conservation. Pages 67-140 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.