‘Bat man’ lands on the Hinkley Connection

Jack Hooker undertaking PhD research into bat mitigation strategies

Bats are big news in Somerset with 17 of the 18 species of British bat found in the county.

It’s Bat Appreciation Day on Saturday (17 April) and as part of our commitment to caring for the natural environment, National Grid already employ a range of measures to reduce the impact of our work on protected bat species.

On the Hinkley Connection Project – which will connect Hinkley Point C and other low carbon energy sources to National Grid’s network, measures include the installation of 2.5km of bat flyways, several bat boxes, and the construction of one purpose-built home in Mark for them. And now we are taking this commitment even further.

National Grid has partnered with the University of the West of England (UWE) to offer a unique, jointly-funded, full-time PhD project to research the most effective strategies to mitigate construction impact on bat populations. The research findings will be applied on future major construction projects and used by local planning authorities across the UK.

PhD Project lead and ‘bat man’ Jack Hooker said, “Bats are vital for maintaining the health of our ecosystems, yet mitigation work is often costly, time-consuming and its effectiveness is rarely tested. The focus of the project is on minimising the impacts of habitat fragmentation, where parts of a habitat are reduced and isolated, leaving behind smaller unconnected areas scattered across the landscape, which risks further loss of diversity and abundance of our wildlife. We rarely see, or have the opportunity to study, the scale of mitigation work provided on Hinkley Connection Project, both in terms of the applied conservation goals and the design of reproducible and functional bat flyways.”

“I want to come up with a fully-tested mitigation strategy that’s a win-win for developers and the local wildlife.”

A large part of Jack’s time between now and September will be spent on site monitoring bat flyways along the route of the underground cables through the Mendip Hills AONB. It is hoped the innovative project will mean future conservation strategies for bats in the construction industry are cost-effective, reliable and evidence based.

Jack continued, “I want to come up with a fully-tested mitigation strategy that is cost efficient, time effective and easy to achieve, so that it’s a win-win for developers and the local wildlife.”

Project Director for National Grid, James Goode said: “Bat populations have suffered from declining numbers over the last century. To counter this and to mitigate the impact of our work in the area, we are already working hard to provide dedicated places for bats to roost and flyways to help them navigate. We hope our partnership with UWE will help to transform ways of working in the construction industry and help to protect the UK’s vulnerable bat populations for years to come.”