A PRIVATE Member's Bill designed to exempt churches from
regulations covering the conservation of bats will return to the
Commons to complete its Second Reading today. MPs debated the Bat
Habitats Regulation Bill at a Second Reading last Friday; but ran
out of time before the matter could be put to a vote.
The Bill has two clauses: one would prohibit the construction of
new buildings and wind turbines on undeveloped sites with bat
habitats, unless an artificial roost is constructed near by; the
second provides the exemption for places of worship.
The Bill's sponsor, Christopher Chope, the Conservative MP for
Christchurch, said during last week's debate: "The Church Monuments
Society is collectively tearing its hair out at its inability to do
anything to address effectively the problem of bat damage that is
affecting the conservation of furniture, liturgical objects . . .
and so on, in buildings used for public worship."
Asked why the Bill exempted only buildings used as places of
worship, Mr Chope said that "the mere prospect of legislating on
bats has already created an almost hysterical reaction among some
members of bat conservation societies. I am therefore loath to make
the Bill wider than is necessary to deal with the immediate
The Bill was opposed by the MP for Brent North, Barry Gardiner
(Labour), who said that "Bats and people have been sharing
dwellings for thousands of years. In the UK, this is most notable,
of course, in our churches and cathedrals, as natural roosting
sites have become scarce, due to development and land use
The Bat Conservation Trust opposes the Bill. It acknowledges
that "bats can cause problems", but it criticises the "blanket
prohibition" on places of worship. It "does not take account of
either the potential importance of some churches to vulnerable bat
populations, or the work that the Government are doing to alleviate
the impact in such places when bats are causing a nuisance or