THE lesser horseshoe bat may not be familiar to many people, but
parishioners in south-west England are becoming well versed in its
requirements. Their church is among many that are making special
provision for the animals.
As the lesser horseshoe is a species in decline, relocating it
can cost a significant sum, as the congregation at All Saints',
Nunney, in Somerset, can attest. Having raised £200,000 to replace
the church's ceiling, Friends of Nunney Church must now raise
£10,000 to rehouse a colony living in the roof.
"You can't just barge in and start upsetting their habitat
unless you have made provision for them," David Scrutton, a member
of the Friends, said on Tuesday of last week. "We have a maternity
colony of bats." He was unaware of any damage they might have
caused, but in June, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir
Tony Baldry, warned MPs that bats were threatening the future of
He said that bat faeces and urine had the potential to cause
"enormous damage" to churches, corroding monumental brasses, and
disfiguring medieval paintings. The cost of cleaning, monitoring,
delays to building work, and bat-mitigation measures was
He warned: "Many of the churches affected by bat infestation are
approaching a situation where their buildings may be unsustainable
as places of worship. . . There is every chance that church
congregations will find themselves homeless and without a place of
worship, with listed buildings left unoccupied."
Bats are a protected species in the EU and, in most
circumstances, it is a criminal offence to disturb them. The
Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, said that the Government was
working with Natural England to address "misunderstanding" about
how to comply with the law, and investigate reports of
"over-zealous" advice to churches.
Last month, churchwardens in Lincolnshire attended a conference
at Holy Trinity, Tattershall, organised in partnership with the Bat
Conservation Trust. David Mellenger, a churchwarden at Holy
Trinity, which is home to more than 600 bats, described how
coverings had been used to protect the building, and how visitors
now came to see the creatures. Working with local bat volunteers
had been "essential", he said.