BAT conservation is costing churches thousands of pounds and is
unsustainable, a delegation for the Church of England, led by
Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, has
The delegation urged the Environment Minister, Richard Benyon,
to come forward urgently with ways to help churches deal more
effectively with bats.
Leaving interpretation of the law on bat conservation largely to
the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is bringing the European Habitats
Directive into disrepute to the detriment of endangered species
more generally, they said.
Up to 6400 churches in England are thought to be used by bats,
which are a protected species, and Natural England, the
Government's wildlife adviser, has to be consulted in advance of
any work that might disturb them.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said that
churches were being treated like "uninhabited barns".
Annie Sloman, who chairs the Church Buildings Council, accused
the Government of "over-delegation" to the BCT. The Church
Buildings Council has been working with Natural England on research
projects for more than a year to try to find a way forward that
costs churches less.
Having bats in churches could raise costs substantially, the
delegation said. The cost of replacing one small piece of a leaded
window increased from £5, using plain glass, to £140 when fitting a
lead "bat flap" - four weeks' collection in the rural parish church
of Wiggenhall St Germans, in Norfolk.
The Archdeacon of Cleveland, the Ven. Paul Ferguson, highlighted
the problem for one of his parishes, saying that "£29,000 has been
spent so far by the congregation of St Hilda's, Ellerburn, on two
bat problems, and, although a licence to do something is now
promised, it is by no means certain. Meanwhile, the cost in
financial and human terms to those who worship there
Sir Tony said that he was equally frustrated by the lack of
The BCT said, however, that it was "dismayed" by the comments of
the C of E's delegation.
Its CEO, Julia Hanmer, said: "As both a committed
conservationist and Christian, I am sad to see the Church of
England publishing inaccurate stories and reviving old
misunderstandings about bats. I can't see how this promotes the
Church of England's mission, which includes 'striving to safeguard
the integrity of creation and sustaining and renewing the life of
"The Bat Conservation Trust recognises that, in some cases, the
presence of bats can be very problematic for those who use or
maintain church buildings, and that integrating the protection of
bats into the care of church buildings can be challenging,
especially for small or under-resourced communities. It is often
possible to find solutions to address or alleviate such problems,
given the right support, and the willingness to find a solution
that helps both people and bats."