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Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero April 15, 2024

Yes, bat boxes covering London’s clean air zone cameras can be legally removed

If Your Time is short

  • A spokesperson for the Bat Conservation Trust said bat boxes can be removed with the correct authority. Transport for London said it is working with environmental specialists for the safe and legal removal of the bat boxes.

  • Here’s how PolitiFact chooses which statements to fact-check.

People in London have devised with a unique way to block cameras that enforce emissions standards: They’re luring bats.

In London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone or ULEZ, people with vehicles that fail to meet certain emissions standards are asked to pay 12.50 pounds per day to drive within the zone. Cameras help enforce the rule. A social media post said, detractors are pushing back by installing bat boxes — roosts for the flying mammals — that can’t be legally removed.

"ULEZ protesters covering cameras with bat boxes. Authorities not allowed to remove under their own law," read a March 31 Instagram post.

(Screenshot from Instagram)

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

News outlets reported in March that bat boxes were installed under number plate recognition cameras in London areas Chessington and North Cheam. British law protects bat species and their roosts. According to the Bat Conservation Trust, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to bat conservation, the following could be considered criminal offenses:

  • Deliberately taking, injuring or killing a wild bat.

  • Intentionally or recklessly disturbing a bat in its roost or disturbing a group of bats.

  • Damaging or destroying roosts or places bats use for breeding or resting, even when they’re unoccupied.

    Featured Fact-check

  • Possessing or advertising/selling/exchanging a bat, dead or alive, of a species found in the wild in the EU or any part of a bat.

  • Intentionally or recklessly obstructing access to a bat roost.

But there are cases when bat boxes can be removed.

"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," said Joe Nuñez-Miño, communications and fundraising director for the Bat Conservation Trust, in an email to PolitiFact. He said the licensing authority — in this case Natural England — has the "power to make decisions based on the evidence available." 

Natural England, a public body that advises the government for England’s natural environment, licenses people who want to "carry out work that may affect bats."

How likely bats are to bat boxes depends on factors including their surrounding habitat, available alternative roosting sites and how the boxes were placed. 

"In this case, it seems highly unlikely that the bat boxes will be occupied," Nuñez-Miño said. "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."

A Transport for London spokesperson told PolitiFact that the agency is working with environmental specialists to remove the boxes. According to Transport for London, it is illegal to install materials on its infrastructure without consent. 

We rate the claim that authorities cannot legally remove bat boxes covering ULEZ cameras False.

Our Sources

Email exchange, Joe Nuñez-Miño, Director of Communications & Fundraising at the Bat Conservation Trust, April 15, 2024

Emailed statement from Transport for London spokesperson, April 15, 2024 

Instagram post (archived), March 31, 2024

Transport for London, Ultra Low Emission Zone, accessed April 12, 2024

The Telegraph, Anti-Ulez protesters hang ‘protected’ bat boxes on camera poles, March 25, 2024

Kingston Nub News, Campaigners go up to bat against Kingston's ULEZ cameras, March 26, 2024

MyLondon, TfL to take down ULEZ camera pole bat boxes installed to stop engineers repairing them, April 8, 2024

Bat Conservation Trust, About Us, accessed April 12, 2024

Bat Conservation Trust, Bats and the law, accessed April 12, 2024

Natural England, accessed April 15, 2024

Natural England, Bats: apply for a mitigation licence (A13), accessed April 15, 2024

Full Fact, Bat boxes on ULEZ cameras can be legally removed by TfL, April 10, 2024

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Yes, bat boxes covering London’s clean air zone cameras can be legally removed

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