Bats on Hilbre Island during cave building works

The request was successful.

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...

Dalton, Chelsea, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Ms Kuhlmann-Muller,

 

I write to you in respect of your request for internal review. Please see
below, your points made (in Bold), along with officers comments
(underneath in italic).

 

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.

1. The number of bat detector units on the island has not been suppressed,
the Local Ranger alluded to a second unit that could be used to record the
majority of bats. The number of units on the island is not relevant to
works on the cave, it was part of a separate study. We were providing
background information on bat activity on Hilbre for people who may not be
familiar with the island.

 

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.

2. We believe that the enquirer is incorrect to say that the cave is only
inundated on two tides a month. The cave is regularly inundated. The level
of inundation can vary from partial to complete depending on predicted and
actual tide height and weather conditions. The actual heights and levels
of inundation of the cave are not able to be practically or safely
measured within existing resources and are of little use to the wider
management of the island. The cave only has to be fully inundated once to
destroy or deter a bat roost.

An expert member of the bat group recently viewed the cave and agreed that
it was not suitable as a permanent or seasonal roost.

To quote:

"the cave's use by bats, if at all, was very limited".

He concluded that if a bat did enter the cave it's use may be for just a
few hours if at all.

 

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.

3 & 4. We have been providing background information about bats on Hilbre
for people who may not be familiar with the island as well as responses to
the complaint.

 

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.

3 & 4. We have been providing background information about bats on Hilbre
for people who may not be familiar with the island as well as responses to
the complaint.

 

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

5.The survey was commissioned by Asset Management and the Local Ranger
assisted with transport of the ecologist to and from the island and opened
up the building to provide them with access. The survey was undertaken by
the ecologist of the buildings before the roof repairs were undertaken.
They surveyed the building looking for evidence of the presence of bats.
No evidence of bats using the buildings has been found.

 

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. "

6. Our Rangers have advised that during informal conversations with HIBO
members the discovery of bat roosts has never been mentioned while
discussing bats on the island. If a roost was discovered by a Ranger or
HIBO we would have shared this information and taken the appropriate
action.

 

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.

7. When working on and in buildings Rangers have always looked for
evidence of bat roosts, be it actual bats or droppings or other signs.
This is part of their work on the island but also in part due to their
personal interest in the biodiversity of Hilbre. These kind of
investigations are important and compliment the work undertaken by the bat
group. Their remote sensors mean that many late or overnight stays on the
island to monitor bats are not always necessary.

 

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

8. The enquirer states that the works destroyed bat roosts in the cave. We
would refer to the answer given by the expert from the bat group.

To quote:

"the cave's use by bats, if at all, was very limited".

He concluded that if a bat did enter the cave it's use may be for just a
few hours if at all.

 

As the internal review process has been completed, please be advised that
you now have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner if you
remain dissatisfied with the Council’s response.

 

The address for the Information Commissioner’s Office is:-

Wycliffe House,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire SK9 5AF

Tel -0303 123 113

[1]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Chelsea Dalton

Information Management Officer

Business Management - ICT

Treasury Building

Argyle Street

Birkenhead

Wirral

CH41 1AH

Tel: 0151 666 5201

[2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

PLEASE FORWARD ALL FOI RESPONSES TO [3][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. https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/
2. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]
3. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]