13th June 2014

Many medieval churches have bat roosts, and sometimes these roosts have been used by generations of bats. The only nationwide systematic survey of bats in churches (Sargent, 1995) concluded that of 30,500 churches/chapels of all denominations in England, 6,398 could be occupied by bats. Around 60% of pre-16th century churches were estimated to have bats. In most churches however, the number of bats is small and often the congregation may not even be aware of their presence.

Of the estimated 30,500 churches of all denominations in England, BCT receives enquiries from around 400 (1%) churches to our helpline each year. Most of these relate to general advice on how to take bats into account during building works and most callers are positive or neutral about bats. We recognise that while small numbers of bats can go unnoticed in a church, larger roosts can pose a range of challenges to those looking after the church building. BCT is working actively with a range of partners to improve solutions for those church communities who experience difficulty because of the presence of a bat roost. Because bats have experienced such severe declines in the past, it is important to use solutions that help both people and bats.

Many parish churches do not realise that help is available: BCT runs the National Bat Helpline under contract to Natural England. In 2013 it answered more than 10,000 enquiries about bats, and arranged more than 1600 free volunteer visits for householders and churches. In the summer our Helpline even runs out of office hours and in 2010 almost 2000 additional calls were answered at evenings or weekends. In our most recent customer satisfaction survey 97% of respondents rated the advice received to be excellent or good.

Julia Hanmer, CEO said, "We would encourage any church that has a concern about a bat roost to call the National Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228. With the right support, churches can often find solutions to the challenges of living alongside bat colonies."

Notes to Editors:

- All British bats are protected under British law, because of severe declines in bat numbers during the twentieth century. Loss of roosting habitat to development and construction, loss of foraging habitat as farming practice has changed (using pesticide and losing meadows and hedgerows) and loss of hedgerows, waterways and commuting routes linking the two all contributed to the declines in bat populations.

- Because of widespread population declines and continued vulnerability, all British bat species are European protected species and afforded a high level of protection under both the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Deliberately capturing, disturbing, injuring and killing bats is prohibited, as is damaging or destroying their breeding sites and roosts, except under a licence issued by Natural England.

- The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is the only national organisation solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats in the UK. Its network of 100 local bat groups and more than 1,000 bat workers survey roosts and hibernation sites, and work with householders, builders, farmers and foresters to protect bats. www.bats.org.uk

- The Bat Helpline 0845 1300 228 is for anyone who needs help with bats, including churches. If you find a grounded or injured bat, believes bats to be at risk or think you may have bats or want to let us know about a bat roost site please call the Bat Helpline 0845 1300 228

Media queries to Joe Nunez on 07984 545531, jnunez-mino@bats.org.uk