Bat Earned Recognition Monitoring and Evaluation Report: Assessment and Accreditation and Licensing.
The Bat Earned Recognition (BER) pilot programme was developed in March 2021 in partnership between Natural England, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT). The pilot was instigated as a first step in road testing the BER concept for bat mitigation licences for the purposes of preserving public health or public safety, and imperative reasons of overriding public interest. It aims to (1) streamline the bat licensing process for stakeholders by reducing delays, issuing licences more quickly and improving certainty from the outset; (2) raise and maintain standards in bat licensing to enable delivery of high-quality environmental outcomes and increased accountability, resulting in and ensuring timely and appropriate decisions within licensing to provide better outcomes for bats; (3) identify the necessary framework and mechanisms required for national roll-out; (4) reduce the cost of administering the licensing system and (5) free up resource availability for other organizational priorities, such as compliance monitoring. It is divided into 5 phases, including pre-pilot and stakeholder consultation; materials, policies and processes; assessment and accreditation; licensing for real and project evaluation. As a national licence, evaluation data indicated that the BER is accessible to all bat consultants, at any time and, overall, it is considered a fair system. Overall, the pilot demonstrated considerable streamlining over current systems. Informal feedback and initial data shows that the BER approach does have significant potential to raise and maintain professional standards. While there are risks and opportunities associated with upscaling to a national level, initial indications are that it can be a scalable and sustainable approach. It was shown that all of the objectives have been met by the pilot, or are likely to be met by roll out of BER. In conclusion, the BER can be a scalable and sustainable approach, achieving significant streamlining of the licensing service and with potential to raise and maintain professional standards. Through this improvement in standards, the positive message from a streamlined licensing service and collecting enhanced levels of monitoring data, it is predicted that this approach will lead to positive outcomes for bat conservation.