Protected Species in Barn Conversions

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Ecology and Barn Conversions

One thing you may not have considered when planning to convert an agricultural building is the need to consider the impact on protected species.

We share our buildings and spaces with many other animals and with plants, including some which may not spring immediately to mind. Any potential development sites can potentially be home to numerous protected species, and steel-framed sheet clad buildings and historic stone barns are certainly no exception. When considering any planning application, the Council needs to know what species could potentially be on site and the means of protection or mitigation.

What are Protected Species in the UK?

Protected species include bats, badgers, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and certain plants. In preparing a planning application, where protected species are likely to exist; protected species surveys have to be prepared by an ecologist or a recognised expert and submitted as part of a planning application.

These surveys are time sensitive and can only be conducted at the right time of year, depending on the species in question. Great Crested Newts became the poster boy for delay in the planning system because the window for undertaking a Great Crested Newt (GCN) survey is noticeably short. For example, for an eDNA GCN survey the window is mid-April to the middle of June.

This means that if an application is submitted in July but without the required eDNA survey, a decision on the application would be delayed for a year. For many councils, a planning application would not be validated unless accompanied by the survey.

On sites with multiple protected species, surveys have to be done at the right time of year. This needs forward planning and can extend the preparation period for a planning application. This is something our experts are well versed in and can assist you with as part of the planning process.

Close up picture of small Brown long-eared bat

What Types of Survey are needed?

There are a range of ecological surveys which can be required but as an example, for a disused agricultural site with derelict buildings containing a badger sett, and with areas suitable for reptiles, the following surveys will be required:

  • A badger survey – (any time throughout the year
  • eGCN survey (mid-April to mid-June)
  • An amphibian survey (May to September)
  • A bat emergence survey (three visits May to September)
  • Breeding birds (March to July)
  • A reptile survey (March to October)
  • Plant habitat surveys – (May to September)

Summary of Ecological Requirements for Barn Conversions


As the natural world wakes up from winter, spring is the best time of year for multiple surveys. It is important to get these surveys in place when you can. Please note that ecologists are very busy at key times of the year and will need to be booked well in advance.

This issue is likely to become even more important as this country commits itself to improving biodiversity and the planned uplift in biodiversity on larger development sites.

So when considering creating a new home from your disused agricultural building, it is worth bearing in mind that it may already be a home to a variety of protected flora and fauna. With expert advice and an understanding of the planning processes and requirements involved, there is no reason why happy cohabitation cannot be achieved.

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