Protecting our bats

National Grid partners with University of the West of England

Bats are big news in Somerset with 17 of the 18 species of British bat found in the county.

As part of its commitment to caring for the natural environment, National Grid employs a range of measures to reduce the impact of its works on local bat species. These include the retention or recreation of bat flyways; linear features of the landscape, like hedgerows, which bats use for navigation.

On the Hinkley Connection Project – which will connect EDF’s Hinkley Point C and other low-carbon energy sources to the network – we are constructing 48 temporary bat flyways along the Mendip underground cable part of the route alone. And now we are taking this commitment even further.

National Grid is partnering with the University of the West of England (UWE) to offer a unique, jointly-funded, full-time PHD project to research the most effective strategies to mitigate construction impact on bat populations. The research findings will be applied on future major construction projects and used by local planning authorities across the UK.

The project is being supervised by leading UK bat experts, Dr Paul Lintott and Dr Emma Stone, who are specialists in the academic areas of wildlife and human conflict and assessing mitigation techniques.

Dr Lintott says: “This is an exciting opportunity for us to work with industry to ensure that our research produces timely and useful applied outcomes. Bats are vital for maintaining the health of our ecosystems, yet mitigation work is often costly, time-consuming and its effectiveness is rarely tested. This innovative project will therefore provide greatly enhanced confidence that future conservation strategies for bats are cost-effective, reliable and evidence-based.”

Recruitment for the right bat man – or woman – has started via the UWE website. The successful applicant will divide their time between the university and working on site alongside principal contractors, Balfour Beatty within the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The project will assess the effectiveness of bat flyway mitigation strategies and model bat habitat use within the North Somerset and Mendip Bats Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Mendip Limestone SAC.