26th April 2018

The Bat Habitats Regulation Bill sponsored by Lord Cormack is scheduled to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 27th of April 2018. We believe that this bill is impractical and would be damaging to bat conservation.

The bill states that its aims are to make provision to enhance the protection available for bat habitats in the vicinity of a building site and to limit the protection for bats in buildings used for public worship. After examining the details contained within the Bill, we believe that it is unnecessary, impractical and, as drafted, it fails to take into account both the complex nature of bat ecology, and the legislation and processes that are already in place.

Bats and their roosts are legally protected because of the severe declines they have experienced in the past through habitat loss, agricultural intensification, roost destruction, pesticides and deliberate killing. It is our view that the Bat Habitats Regulation Bill would be disastrous for those bat species that rely on churches. Diluting or requesting exemptions to current legislation will certainly harm wildlife and will not be a positive way forward for churches either. We recognise that in some churches, the presence of bats presents significant problems for users, as well as for the fabric of the church through bat droppings, and that bat urine can cause damage to furniture and fittings. However, church and heritage bodies, Natural England and the Bat Conservation Trust are already engaged in a project (Bats in Churches Project Partnership) that aims to address the issue of large roosts to safeguard bat roosts in England’s churches, whilst reducing their negative impact on these historic buildings and the people who use them. The development phase of this project (funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and AllChurches Trust) has worked with pilot churches to test different approaches to manage the impact of bats in churches where this is needed. The project is now looking for further funding for the delivery phase.

The approach outlined in the bill to enhance the protection for some bat habitats is likely to be over burdensome for developers and land owners, and doesn’t take into account the requirements and processes that already exist to consider the impacts upon bats of any land development.

There is already a great deal of work that conservationists are doing in partnership with other sectors, including local authorities, developers and the church community, to further improve implementation of the existing legislation. An example of this is the Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning Project, led by Bat Conservation Trust in partnership with 18 other organisations from the conservation, ecological consultancy, planning, and development and biodiversity data sectors. This type of ‘better implementation’ work overrides the need for any new and potentially impractical legislation.

Some historical background to the Bill: Bills similar to the current one have been presented in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the last few years (see links at foot of this news piece). The first version of the bill was presented by Sir Christopher Chope MP in the House of Commons on the 7 July 2014. Although the second reading began on 16 January 2015, it made no further progress in the 2014-2015 session of Parliament. Sir Chope then introduced the Bill into the House of Commons in June 2016 but it did not receive a second reading. Lord Cormack also presented a similar Bill to the House of Lords on 7 June 2016 but again no further progress was made. Sir Chope has introduced a similarly named Bill (Bat Habitats Regulation (No. 2) Bill) for the third time in the House of Commons and this is due to have its second reading on the 6th of July 2018.

Previous news pieces relating to similar Bills:

Bat Habitat Regulation Bill – UPDATE (February 2016)

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill – UPDATE 2016 (22 January 2016)

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill Revived

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill (England and Wales)

Links of Interest

The Bats and Churches partnership is made up of Natural England, Church of England (Cathedral and Church Buildings Division), Historic England, Bat Conservation Trust and Churches Conservation Trust are working together to use the latest research to provide innovative solutions that support churches with bats. https://www.batsandchurches.or...

Church case studies

If you require further information please contact Joe Nunez on: 020 7820 7168 OR jnunez-mino@bats.org.uk