National Grid partners with UWE to protect UK's bat population article

National Grid partners with UWE to protect the UK's bat population

We have partnered with the University of the West of England (UWE) to offer a unique PhD research project on how 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.

Bats are big news in Somerset, with 17 of the 18 species of British bat found in the county – which is where our Hinkley Connection Project to connect Hinkley Point C and other low-carbon energy sources to our network is taking place.

As part of our commitment to caring for the natural environment, we already employ a range of measures to reduce the impact of our work on protected bat species. On the Hinkley Connection Project, measures include the installation of 2.5km of bat flyways, several bat boxes and the construction of purpose-built homes for them.

However, with this new partnership, we are taking our commitments even further. We are jointly funding a full-time PhD research project, to protect bats from being impacted by current and future construction projects. 

PhD Project lead Jack Hooker said: “Bats are vital for maintaining the health of our ecosystems, yet mitigation work is often costly and 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.

Bats are vital for maintaining the health of our ecosystems.

We rarely see, or have the opportunity to study, the scale of mitigation work provided on the Hinkley Connection Project; both in terms of the applied conservation goals and the design of reproducible and functional bat flyways.”

Working towards future bat conservation strategies

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 AONB. It’s hoped the innovative project will mean future conservation strategies for bats in the construction industry are cost-effective, reliable and evidence based.

Jack continued: “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.

James Goode, Project Director for National Grid, said: “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.”