16th March 2020

**UPDATE (16th March 2020)** The reading of the Bat Habitats Regulation Bill has been postponed to the 11th September 2020

UPDATE: Proposed Bill threatens the conservation of British bats

Brown long-eared bat catching moth (c) Daniel Hargreaves

The latest version of the Bat Habitats Regulation Bill is scheduled to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday 13th of March. This is the fifth time a Bill of this nature has been presented to Parliament. The current Bill is sponsored by Sir Christopher Chope MP, as was the first Bill in January 2015. Three similar version have been sponsored by Lord Cormack in the House of Lords. Details of all the previous bills can be found at the end of this news piece, while the information regarding the latest Bill can be found here: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/bathabitatsregulation.html

Like previous Bills, it seeks to reduce the protection of bats in places of worship and like previous versions, this Bill is impractical and will be highly detrimental for both bat populations and churches. Current legislation provides an essential mechanism for safeguarding vulnerable species whilst ensuring social and economic needs are met. Diluting or requesting exemptions to this legislation would certainly harm bats and would not be a positive way forward for churches or other places of worship either.

At the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) we have always worked to find sustainable solutions for those churches experiencing problems caused by having a bat roost. We have a long standing commitment to finding solutions that benefit church users, bat populations and our cultural heritage. We have worked with a number of partners to develop the Bats in Churches partnership which is made up of Natural England, the Church of England, Historic England, BCT and the Churches Conservation Trust. The project has secured funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to work with a large number of churches, including some of those worse affected.

We are working together with a wide range of experts, using the latest research to provide innovative solutions that support churches with bats. Through our work we have already seen successes; when churches are given the right help and support, and churches and conservationists work together in partnership issues can be resolved and even large bat roosts can be accommodated. We aim to continue to work with churches, communities and volunteers to provide help, and develop guidance and solutions through a full scale Bat, Churches and Communities programme to ensure churches receive the help they need.

Sir Christopher Chope MP is fully aware of what the Bats in Churches project is doing and has already achieved in its first year. He asked a written question on the 20th of February about the Bats in Churches project to Andrew Selous MP, Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners. Sir Christopher Chope’s question was: “What (a) policy changes and (b) steps the Church of England is taking in relation to the 2019 survey of bats in churches undertaken with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund”

The response from Andrew Selous MP was:

The £3.8m funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund that was secured in 2018, enabled not just one survey, but a five-year Bats in Churches partnership project made up of the Church of England, Natural England, Historic England, the Bat Conservation Trust, and the Churches Conservation Trust.

The project is working with ecologists, church architects, heritage experts and church communities to support and develop bespoke solutions for around 120 churches struggling with unsustainable bat roosts across the country. Churches that are part of the project are continuously monitored to ensure there is no damage to the bat populations. Additionally, a nationwide volunteer-led four-year survey, the ‘Bats in Churches Study’ is to be launched this summer and will give an in-depth picture of how bats are using Church of England churches and the attitudes of churchgoers towards them.

The Bats in Churches project is now in its second year and can report the delivery of three successful mitigation works in some of the worst affected churches, in Braunston-in-Rutland, Tattershall and Swanton Morley. These three schemes have enabled congregations and the wider community to co-exist harmoniously alongside the bats and for church heritage to be respected.

Other projects nearing completion include:

  • St Pega’s Church Peakirk, following a lead theft that has enabled bat mitigation to be incorporated into the re-roofing repair work.
  • St John the Baptist Church in Cold Overton is similarly incorporating bat mitigation into its repairs.

Support for churches sheltering bats is available from the Bats in Churches project who are running events to build networks of volunteers, links to bat and heritage groups and specialist cleaning workshops and advice.

Historically, bat populations have undergone dramatic declines. Data from the National Bat Monitoring Programme suggests that for some species of bat, their numbers are stable and possibly slowly increasing. We put this down to greater awareness of bats, the protection afforded to them by legislation and the sustained effort that government, the public and conservationists have made to conserve them. To enable bat populations to continue to recover, we need the help of churches as they become disproportionately important roosting sites in surrounding areas of habitat degradation. The legislation provides an essential mechanism for safeguarding vulnerable species to exist alongside people but it also allows actions to be taken when there are issues that need to be dealt with. Natural England’s recent creation of the Bats in Churches Class Licence for ecologists has already offered more flexibility to implicate mitigation measures that allow bats, buildings and church communities to co-exist in a sustainable manner. Diluting or requesting exemptions to this legislation will certainly harm bats and will not be a positive way forward for churches either.

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For further information or to request images please contact: Dr Joe Nunez-Mino, Director of Communications and Fundraising, Bat Conservation Trust jnunez-mino@bats.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

Bats in Churches project: https://www.batsandchurches.org.uk/

Bat Conservation Trust website: https://www.bats.org.uk/

Previous Bills:

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill 2014-15 – Sir Christopher Chope

https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2014-15/bathabitatsregulation.html

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill [HL] 2015-16 – Lord Cormack

https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2015-16/bathabitatsregulation.html

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill [HL] 2016-17 - Lord Cormack

https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/bathabitatsregulation.html

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill [HL] 2017-19 - Lord Cormack

https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2017-19/bathabitatsregulation.html