The controversial bat bridges on the A11 have come under fire from Liz Truss in her new book... but the former prime minister appears to have misunderstood their purpose.

The South West Norfolk MP fires broadsides at many institutions in her newly released memoir Ten Years to Save the West, chronicling her brief Downing Street tenure.

But, along with criticising the Treasury and the Bank of England over their actions during her ill-fated 49 days as prime minister - during which she unveiled a tax-cutting policy agenda which tanked the pound - she finds room to slam six bat bridges installed when the A11 was dualled.

Eastern Daily Press: One of the bat bridges on the A11One of the bat bridges on the A11 (Image: © Archant Norfolk 2014)

Those £350,000 bridges - made of wire mesh strung high over the carriageway between two poles - were intended to replace removed hedgerows and trees.

The idea was bats could use them as a reference point for sonar, so they could avoid the road while flying.

Eastern Daily Press: A barbastelle batA barbastelle bat (Image: C. Packman)

But Ms Truss appears to believe the bats were supposed to climb over the bridges.

She wrote: "One of my campaigns as a constituency MP was a major expansion of the A11, which got built in 2015.

"The project had been hugely delayed and the price massively hiked by all the environmental objections and works.

"In particular, the builders had been forced to install ‘bat bridges’ so bats could travel safely across the road. Needless to say, no bat has ever been seen on these bridges. Anyway, bats fly!

"When [then prime minister] David Cameron came to see the new road being built, he bemoaned all the nonsense that had led to increased costs. It was just another example of how no one – not even the prime minister – could stop the environmental juggernaut."

Eastern Daily Press: David CameronDavid Cameron


While Ms Truss may have misunderstood how the bridges were supposed to work, research has shown they are not fulfilling their intended purpose.

A study by the University of Leeds revealed most bats 'used' the bridges at unsafe heights - within five metres of the road and lower than had been hoped.

Gareth Dalglish, director of nature recovery at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said Ms Truss was wrong to pin the blame on the "environmental juggernaut", adding that organisations warned there was a lack of evidence the bridges would work.

He said: "The A11 travels through internationally important sites for wildlife, which the UK government has a legal duty to protect.

"The bat bridges that Liz Truss said builders were 'forced' to use were suggested by the Highways Agency (as they were at that time), who were developing the road. This is despite environmental bodies warning there was no evidence that they work. 

"Norfolk Wildlife Trust has always had concerns about the effectiveness of the bat bridges used on the A11 and subsequent research has proved our concerns valid.

"Evidence now shows these bridges have not protected bats living along the route of the NDR, and nor will they protect the rare bats found on the route of the proposed Norwich Western Link.

"Different species have different habitat requirements and bats can't simply 'fly away' as that habitat they need might not exist in other places."



Ms Truss is currently involved in a new dispute over bats and roads.

She was one of the Norfolk Conservative MPs to write to environment secretary Steve Barclay urging him to intervene over guidance regarding barbastelle bats from government advisors Natural England.

Eastern Daily Press: Steve BarclaySteve Barclay

The guidance is Natural England's view on whether barbastelle bats have "favourable conservation status" - the minimum threshold at which the species is thriving in England and is expected to continue to thrive.

Natural England - an organisation Ms Truss has said she would like to be abolished - says there are not enough bats nationally to grant favourable conservation status and that there is "no known mitigation or compensation" for loss of barbastelle roosting habitat in the short to medium term.

Eastern Daily Press: A visualisation of the Norwich Western LinkA visualisation of the Norwich Western Link (Image: Newsquest)

Leaders at Norfolk County Council say that threatens the chances of the £274m Norwich Western Link, which would connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 west of the city, being built.

County Hall officers believe the new guidance means they will not be granted an environmental licence.