Bat boxes on ULEZ cameras can be legally removed by TfL

10 April 2024
What was claimed

If a bat box is installed on a camera which enforces the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London it cannot by law be removed.

Our verdict

This isn’t the case. The law protecting bat species in the UK does not prevent Transport for London taking down these boxes, and they are each assessed on the available evidence. TfL has confirmed they are working to legally remove them.

Posts circulating on social media claim that bat boxes attached to cameras enforcing London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) cannot be legally removed. This is not true.

Multiple posts on Facebook claim that using ‘bat boxes’—artificial roosts—to obstruct ULEZ cameras means authorities are unable to remove them because the boxes are protected under environmental legislation.

The ULEZ is an area in London where owners of mainly older cars and motorcycles that don’t meet specific emissions standards must pay £12.50 to drive through. It’s in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except Christmas Day. The zone was expanded to cover most of the Greater London area in August 2023, and there are now over 3,700 cameras in place.

One post says: “ULEZ protesters covering cameras with bat boxes. Authorities not allowed to remove under their own law.”

However, this is not the case and the Bat Conservation Trust told Full Fact they can be legally removed.

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Bats and the law

Bat species and their roosts in Britain are legally protected, and it is a criminal offence to kill or injure a bat, “damage or destroy” a place used by bats for breeding or resting or to “intentionally or recklessly” disturb a bat in its roost.

However, a spokesperson from the Bat Conservation Trust told Full Fact that the law does not prevent Transport for London (TfL) removing any boxes that may have been installed on ULEZ cameras.

“All 18 species of bats and their roosts are indeed protected by law because of significant historical declines. You need a licensed bat worker to carry out a check on a bat box but that does not mean they cannot be legally removed with the correct authority,” they said. 

“The licensing authority, [which] in this case would be Natural England, have the power to make decisions based on the evidence available. In this case, it seems highly unlikely that the bat boxes will be occupied.” 

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, they also told us the boxes would be “very unlikely” to help with the conservation of bat species in London.

“While we don’t have the details of where these bat boxes have been placed, it is highly unlikely that bat boxes next to busy roads will be used by any bat species. The noise and artificial light would act as a powerful deterrent and the bat boxes are likely to remain unoccupied,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for TfL told Full Fact that it is an offence to place apparatus on TfL’s infrastructure without consent which comes under the Highways Act 1980.

They said: “We are working with environmental specialists to safely and legally remove these boxes.”

After being removed the boxes will be offered to an animal charity in London.

We have written previously about misinformation linked to ULEZ, including false claims that five million fines have gone unpaid, visits to places of worship are exempt from charges, and that all drivers of non-electric vehicles will be charged. It’s important to verify information with official sources before sharing it online.

Image courtesy of John Purvis

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