A project to deal with the serious heritage and conservation issues around bats in churches has set off to a flying start.
Most churches have resident bats, which often go unnoticed, but serious problems do occur in some churches – and can be exceptionally difficult to resolve.
Natural England and the Church of England have joined forces to raise awareness of the issues. The project aims to provide those responsible for church buildings with guidance and advice on how best to manage resident bats, including how to deal with legal obligations.
It should improve understanding of bat behaviour and explore ways to minimize their impact on church buildings and congregations. New techniques to encourage bats to migrate to other parts of affected churches are being explored, as are the use of bat boxes in the eaves outside churches.
Loss of traditional woodland habitat and intensive agriculture has seen bat populations decline dramatically in recent years and many species are now far less common than they were – some, such as the greater mouse-eared bat, are on the brink of extinction in the UK. Colonies have been driven to seek refuge in more permanent structures – and churches not only provide bats with large open spaces, but also represent a constant feature in a fast-changing modern landscape.
Natural England’s Regulation Director Janette Ward said: “We know what a serious issue bats can cause for churches and we have no wish to see congregations inconvenienced in their worship.The lack of solution to date has been a real threat to wider bat conservation and the church buildings affected and I hope that we are able to make use of the exciting research projects currently underway to further build on this success.
Anne Sloman, Chair of the Church Buildings Council who leads the working group said: “Often it’s not a case of banishing bat colonies but encouraging them to move to less intrusive parts of the church or indeed to bat boxes outside.”