Executive Summary 

Bats and their roosts are protected by Irish and EU law. 

There are nine resident species of bats in Ireland, each with its own lifestyle and habitat requirements. They use a wide variety of roosts, including buildings of all sorts, trees and underground places. 

All nine bat species are protected under Annex IV of the Habitats Directive. One species, the lesser horseshoe bat, is also included on Annex II and Special Areas of Conservation have been designated to ensure the protection of its important breeding, roosting and foraging areas. 

Many bat roosts are used only seasonally as bats have different roosting requirements at different times of the year. During the summer, females of all species gather in colonies to give birth and rear their young; these maternity roosts are often in places warmed by the sun. During the winter bats hibernate, usually in places that are sheltered from extremes of temperature. 

When planning a development it is advisable to check for the presence of bats as early as possible so that any planning and licensing issues can be addressed before resources are committed. Bat surveys require specialist knowledge and equipment. 

Planning and licencing authorities are required to take account of the presence of protected species, including bats, when considering applications and may refuse applications on the grounds of adverse effects on these species or if an assessment of the impact of the development on protected species is inadequate. Conditions may be attached to the permission/licence to ensure that the conservation status of protected species is maintained. 

A grant of planning permission does not constitute a licence or permit to disturb bats or interfere with their breeding or resting places. 

A derogation licence (under the EC (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011-2021) can permit actions affecting bats or their roosts that would normally be prohibited by law. Application for such a licence may be made to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage through the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department. The applicant must demonstrate that there is no satisfactory alternative, that the reason for the derogation is one of those listed in the legislation and that the action will not adversely affect the favourable conservation status of the bats. Each case is considered on its particular circumstances, and an application may be refused. 

Mitigation to reduce the impact of development is generally a condition of any licence issued. Mitigation measures will be proportionate to the impact and may require e.g. particular timing of operations, use of certain materials, and protection of existing roosts. Compensatory measures e.g. the creation of new roosts to replace ones being lost, may also be required. In some cases, a considerable period of time may be required to carry out this work. Follow up monitoring of the effectiveness of the measures is usually required. 

The protected species legislation applies independently of planning permission and other consents, so licences may be necessary for operations that affect bats but do not require other permissions. 

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage strongly advises developers to seek the services of a professional ecological consultant with appropriate knowledge, experience and expertise in assessing bat populations when contemplating a development proposal that may affect bats or their roosts. 

This document gives generic technical advice on assessing impacts and developing mitigation plans. It does not give a comprehensive explanation of the legislation or provide legal advice. 


  • Marnell, F. et al. (2022). Bat Mitigation Guidelines for Ireland v2. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 134. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Ireland. [PDF]

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