Bats on Hilbre Island during cave building works

Waiting for an internal review by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council of their handling of this request.

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

I have communicated with a member from Merseyside and West Lancashire bat group ( MWLBG), who has been monitoring bats on Hilbre Island with a professional bat detector over the summer months. He sent the following comment how the discovered 5 species of bats might have used the cave, where building works was carried out by North West Construction.

"It’s unlikely that bats are using it for breeding purposes but could use it as night or day roost depending on whether or not crevices exist inside and possibly over the hibernation season again if crevices are present "

My questions to WBC are :
1. Did a professional person trained in bats carry out an assessment re bat roosting in the cave before any work started? If yes, what was the result?
2. If no : is WBC aware that 5 different varieties of bats use the island and that those bats are protected species whose roosting places are protected by law?
3. How does WBC protect bats and their prey on Hilbre Island?

Yours faithfully,

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Müller

Dalton, Chelsea, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Thank you for your recent request made under the Freedom of Information
Act, which has been received by Wirral Borough Council.

 

The Council can confirm this request was received by the FOI team.

 

Your enquiry was passed to the relevant Council department(s), and we will
aim to issue a substantive response within the statutory timeframe FOI act
(2000), 20 working days from the receipt of your request.

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Chelsea Dalton

Information Management Officer

Business Management - ICT

Treasury Building

Argyle Street

Birkenhead

Wirral

CH41 1AH

Tel: 0151 666 5201

[1][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

PLEASE FORWARD ALL FOI RESPONSES TO [2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

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Dalton, Chelsea, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Ms Kuhlmann-Muller,

 

Thank you for your recent FOI enquiry concerning the matter of Bats at
Hilbre Island, submitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I have now discussed the concerns you have raised with the Rangers who
manage Hilbre Island and I would like to provide the below information
which I believe adequately responds to the questions you have raised;

"Hilbre Island Rangers have been supporting the work of the Merseyside and
West Lancs Bat Group who have been looking into the migration of bats on
the west coast of Britain.
The unit on the building was there to see if any bats arriving on the
island used the building. It was chosen as it seemed the most likely spot
for the bats to roost. The cave is unsuitable as a permanent or
temporary/seasonal roost for the bats as it is regularly inundated by the
high spring tides and this would discourage the bats from using it.  Bats
do forage around the sheltered eastern side of the island where there is a
large stand of Blackthorn bushes, well away from the cave area. The
majority of the signals detected so far have come from this unit. The
exposed, windy side of the island, including the cave area, is less
suitable for them to hunt insect prey. There had been a bat survey of the
buildings before recent roof repairs were undertaken. No evidence of bats
using the buildings has been found.

The Bird Observatory also keep records of bats on the island but our
Rangers have never known of any evidence they have come across of bats
being resident on the island, nor of any seasonal or maternity roost
sites. Our Rangers have never found evidence of bats roosting on Hilbre. "

I am satisfied that given the knowledge of the Island by our Rangers,
their clear understanding of law relating to the protection of Bats and
the fact that they were supporting and working with the Merseyside and
West Lancs Bat Group if they considered that there was roosting Bats in
the cave they would have requested that works be stopped.

Thank you for raising your concerns about the Hilbre Island.

We are keen to continue to develop a long term positive working
relationship with the Merseyside and West Lancs Bat Group and clearly as
we develop our plans for the future it will be critical that we engage
with specialist group like these to ensure we get our future plans right
for the Island. An Island which I have previously stated we as Officers
cherish and deeply regret the incidences that have recently occurred and
we are working hard to make it right.

Yours sincerely,

 

Chelsea Dalton

Information Management Officer

Business Management - ICT

Treasury Building

Argyle Street

Birkenhead

Wirral

CH41 1AH

Tel: 0151 666 5201

[1][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

PLEASE FORWARD ALL FOI RESPONSES TO [2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended
solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.
If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager.

References

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1. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]
2. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Bats on Hilbre Island during cave building works'.

Please see my further comments inserted into your response :

"Hilbre Island Rangers have been supporting the work of the Merseyside and
West Lancs Bat Group who have been looking into the migration of bats on
the west coast of Britain.
The unit on the building was there to see if any bats arriving on the
island used the building.
It was chosen as it seemed the most likely spot
for the bats to roost.

1.You only mention one unit, but there are two recording units - a bird observatory member has pointed out another unit in the paddocks and MWLBG confirmed that 2 units have been put up.

The cave is unsuitable as a permanent or
temporary/seasonal roost for the bats as it is regularly inundated by the
high spring tides and this would discourage the bats from using it.

2.High tides with water levels reaching the cave happen twice a month during new and full moon .
Has the water level ever been monitored whether it reaches the ceiling throughout the cave ( not just at the lower end) during those higher tides?
have you ever monitored the crevices in the cave where bats could roost and which aren't covered by water?
From your response I assume that no bat surveys have been carried out in the cave.
I question your response re the 'high spring tides' being a deterrent to the bats using the cave as a roost.
You don't provide evidence for that statement and also don't provide evidence that bats don't use the cave for roosting on other times of the season/year.

Bats do forage around the sheltered eastern side of the island where there is a
large stand of Blackthorn bushes, well away from the cave area. The
majority of the signals detected so far have come from this unit.

3. The east of the island where the plentiful blackthorn bushes grow is a mere 50 or so metres from the cave site...bats cover this sort of distance in seconds when foraging -they fly!
I didn't question the cave as foraging ground but as roosting site.
Your response re foraging doesn't provide an answer to my concerns re roosting

The exposed, windy side of the island, including the cave area, is less
suitable for them to hunt insect prey.
4. Like point 3 : I didn't mention the cave as foraging site but as roosting place.
Your argument re the wind is not valid for me as the wind direction changes - so the cave isn't exposed to wind all the time.Also: in the cave itself it isn't windy.

There had been a bat survey of the
buildings before recent roof repairs were undertaken. No evidence of bats
using the buildings has been found.
5. Can you please provide me with the bat survey of the buildings? Who carried it out and with which methods?

The Bird Observatory also keep records of bats on the island

6. A member of the bird observatory confirmed that bats are recorded by bird watchers only with anecdotal evidence and if members have time and interest. Their primary interest is the recording of birds.

Rangers have never known of any evidence they have come across of bats
being resident on the island, nor of any seasonal or maternity roost.
. Our Rangers have never found evidence of bats roosting on Hilbre. "
7. A member of the bird observatory has seen bats at night time on Hilbre. Have the Rangers spent several nights on the island or inspected the cave as a possible roosting place in order to answer the roosting question?
The statement that they haven't come across bat roosts on Hilbre without actively looking for it isn't valid for me.

I am satisfied that given the knowledge of the Island by our Rangers,
their clear understanding of law relating to the protection of Bats and
the fact that they were supporting and working with the Merseyside and
West Lancs Bat Group if they considered that there was roosting Bats in
the cave they would have requested that works be stopped.

8.My question was whether WBC has carried out a bat survey of the cave at any point before the works started.
The Answer is obviously NO although not outspoken.
As no closer inspection of the cave was carried out, works went ahead possibly destroying bat roosts in the crevices of the cave.
The fact that WBC knows the legal implications re bat roosts doesn't mean that it was adhered to - like other unfortunate incidents during the building works show ( e.g there was knowledge re rare species of plants and still it was allowed for the builders to park there and store equipment)
I know that WBC apologizes for the disastrous environment damages caused to wildlife and the island by these works and promised to put things right.
However - this isn't possible

Yours faithfully,

Birgitta Kuhlmann-Müller

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...