Overgrown garden with bats - what can I do?

Hi everyone. 

I just registered here hoping someone will be able to give me a bit of advice. 

Basically, I'm looking at buying my first home and I've been to see one today which I'm absolutely in love with. It's perfect for me in every way. The garden, however, is partially over grown. The owners mentioned to me that they have bats fly around outside at night which I didn't consider a problem at first, but with the garden being so overgrown, I wanted to get it checked for pests before I made an offer - I'm not a gardener or green thumb by any sense of the imagination so I wouldn't have a clue how to go about getting rid of the overgrowth or any pests. While calling a few places, one of them happened to mention bats being a protected species. 

I then went and did some of my own research regarding this and it seems like there are laws in place which make it seemingly impossible to legally remove bats from your home or to even so much as accidentally disturb a bat. I've heard of £5000 fines per bat if you kill one, and even potential prison time. 

So, my question is now, if bat laws are this strict going so far as to say that you can't even disturb a "potential" (but not used) bat habitat, what am I legally allowed to do about the overgrowth in the garden? How can I cut it down/remove the overgrowth if I could potentially be disturbing a bat habitat? Am I, or the current owners, just supposed to let it grow out of control? The owners have taken absolutely pristine care of their home and the patio'd portion of the garden so it seems very out of character for them to let the upper end of the garden become so jungle-esk - but if the laws around bats are this strict then I'm wondering if that's why they've left it, and if that's why they're looking to move. 

I've read that you can seek special permission to do some things regarding making changes to buildings/trees that may harbour bats but these are subject to strict tests before being awarded. 

I've tried contacting National Trust and the Bat Conservation Trust for advice but they're closed until after the weekend so I just wondered if anyone here had any advice on this? Is there any legal route at all I can take to get rid of the bats from both the house and the garden if they're there or do I have no choice but to live with them/let the garden continue to overgrow? If that's the case, then I can't buy the house and I'll be absolutely gutted. 

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  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 21,265

    why not buy a flat?

    Devon.
  • DyersEndDyersEnd Posts: 730

    I have bats flying round my garden but none in the house, same at the last house I lived in. Don't know where they come from but they're just catching insects.  Would you have a survey if you decided to buy because I think that would unearth any problems.

  • Hostafan1: We live in a flat already and have lived in flats in the past, and we've had enough of the sound issues. Every single flat we've ever lived in has poor sound insulation, and while we can hear some noise when we live in houses, it's nothing compared to the constant noise of living in a flat.

    DyersEnd: yes we would get a survey but we already know there's bats so rather than spend the money to tell us something we already know, my question is - can we cut the garden down or not? Obviously if we intended to buy we would get a survey anyway, but if the overgrown garden is definitely going to be something we can't fix due to the simple 'potential' for bats, then it's not worth spending the money just to be told what we already know, if I'm making sense? Because if we can't do anything about the overgrowth, then we won't be buying the house because I can't live with the garden in its current state.

    Last edited: 22 April 2017 19:49:09

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,020

    Bats fly around everywhere, what is the nature of your overgrowth? Bats don't roost at ground level (except in caves etc) you won't find them in residence in the nettle patch or an unpruned shrub.

    I have a Pipistrelle nursery roost in the house roof most years. If we wanted to re-roof we wouldn't do it while they were there and we'd leave access for them to come back for the next breeding season. You wouldn't be expected to live in a leaking house. There are ways around it all. Bats aren't pests, they're part of our rapidly diminishing native wildlife. 

    I wonder if the owners have left a wild area because they are interested in wildlife. It's a good way to go. 

  • Muddle-UpMuddle-Up Posts: 14,153

    Bats are NOT pests.  They are a protected species.  You need to read up on such things before you buy any property.  The bats do not live in the undergrowth, they may just feed off the flying insects who inhabit it.  Bats roost during the day in buildings, usually.  We have them in our roof space.  They are not a problem.  They are a delight!

    An overgrown garden is not 'protected' just because bats flitter over or across it.  I don't think you need worry!

    Last edited: 22 April 2017 20:41:51

    Aberdeenshire, NE Scotland 🌞  
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  • Nutcutlet - the overgrowth is fairly substantial - large bushes, shrubbery and trees which need removing and/or cutting back substantially.

    From what I've read and understood from various sources (Gov.uk, National Trust, Bats.org) some bats use hedgerows for foraging and travel routes and the gov.uk website specifically highlights "removing commuting habitats like hedgerows, watercourses or woodland", "changing or removing bats' foraging areas", and "cutting down or removal of mature trees" as activities which could negatively impact on bats - which means, I think, that if I were to change the garden in any way I could be liable for hefty fines or prosecution if bats were/are using the garden in any way, which they very likely are in some capacity if they're around the house at night. So I suspect it would be difficult to prove that bats aren't using/won't ever use the overgrowth I plan to cut down and, short of obtaining a license to cut it down which may be a costly, lengthly, and not a guaranteed process, I may not be able to legally bring the garden back into shape :-/ 

    Edit: Only just saw your post Muddle - I am doing research on it but as I've said, there seems to be a lot of very strict rules around protecting them. I'm not bothered about them being in the house or garden - I quite like bats so it's not that I think they're pests or have an issue with them roosting in the house, my concern is simply that I couldn't live in the house with the garden in it's current state and the law seems to suggest (although please do correct me if I'm wrong!) that modifying the garden may risk upsetting commuting/foraging areas which seems to be illegal as it would disturb the bats. 

    Last edited: 22 April 2017 20:57:06

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 55,054

    Absolutely agree with Nutcutlet, Dyers End and Muddle Up ... bats live in chalk caves just across the road from here, it's an SSSI, we love to see them swooping around our house and garden in the evenings catching insects - we are thrilled that there are enough insects in this area to support such a large colony of bats and we garden to encourage a wide range of wildlife which forms a rich and diverse food chain.  

    And don't forget - a large proportion of the insects hoovered up by the bats are gnats and mosquitoes - although we have a wildlife pond in the garden and marshes close by I've not been bitten by a mozzie since we've lived here.  

    Bats are a definite plus in my opinion and well worth a little inconvenience..

    Last edited: 22 April 2017 21:07:26

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • DyersEndDyersEnd Posts: 730

    My garden isn't hugely overgrown and I still have bats. They go where there are insects to feed on and catch them when they're flying around. I think you are worrying about nothing because you'll still have insects whether the garden is overgrown or not and you'll still have bats.

  • Dovefromabove - the garden is substantially over grown. The current owners are disabled so haven't been able to touch the garden in several years. It's currently overgrowing the boundaries of the garden and is pushing into neighbours gardens on both sides. They have a fence which is about 4 foot blocking it off from the patio area and the overgrowth is taller than the fence. It looks a lot like a wasteland at the moment. 

    I do want to stress that it's not the bats I have a problem with - it's the overgrown garden. I just don't want to do anything illegal by cutting the overgrowth and want to know where I stand in regards to cutting back the overgrowth. 

    Edit 2: I think a lot of people are misunderstanding me - my fault for not explaining properly. I am asking purely from a legal standpoint where I stand with cutting back the overgrowth. I'm not concerned about bats or insects in the garden, that's not why I want to get rid of the overgrowth. I just want to bring the garden back under control and get rid of the overgrowth so I can use the space. At the moment, it is literally unusable. 

    Last edited: 22 April 2017 21:20:49

  • DyersEndDyersEnd Posts: 730

    As far as I know you can do what you like with your own garden other than build a house in it or grow very tall conifers. It sounds as if the neighbours would welcome you with open arms too.  Go for it.

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