New licence to help solve the problem of bats in buildings

Paston Church and Great Barn. Bishop of Norwich Graham James and Natural England chief executive Dav

Paston Church and Great Barn. Bishop of Norwich Graham James and Natural England chief executive Dave Webster pictured in the church. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A new licence to help alleviate the financial and administrative burden caused by the discovery of bats in buildings has been praised by Natural England's chief executive.

Paston Church and Great Barn. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Paston Church and Great Barn. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

It comes following the visit by Dave Webster to St Margaret's Church, in Paston, which currently has a small roost of common pipistrelle bats in the chancel roof.

The 14th century building is one of 120 locations in England trialling the new low-impact bat class licence.

And at the church it has enabled work to go ahead along with other restoration work on the nave buttresses, medieval wall paintings and church memorial.

In 1996 bats were also discovered in the adjacent Paston Great Barn, built in 1581. It is now managed by English Nature which leases it, but the presence of the barbastelle bats means it is out of bounds.

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During Thursday's visit Mr Webster met with the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, the chairman of the Church Buildings Council, Anne Sloman, and local clergy.

He said: 'This trial is benefiting a number of customers, allowing them to take a more flexible approach when dealing with small bat roosts.

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'It demonstrates that we are responsive and flexible to the financial challenges faced by communities with specific bat issues.

'It is encouraging to see that the trial has made considerable savings, reducing possible delays and enabling a speedier licensing process to go ahead.'

The trial, which began last July, is estimated to have saved customers more than £150,000 while reducing delays by 360 weeks and will run until the end of June.

It is being overseen by 32 registered and trained consultants, who permit development work that affects low conservation status roosts, such as day, night or feeding roosts, containing small numbers of common bat species.

The class licence is not intended to be a solution to the serious issue of larger bat populations in churches. This is being addressed by a three-year research project funded by Defra.

Natural England hope to introduce the licence this summer.

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