Earlier this month, Natural England (NE) revealed that they had secured £3.8 million in Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funds to support their ongoing efforts to protect churches found to be harbouring notable bat populations.
Due to historic declines, bats represent one of the most stringently protected mammal groups in the UK. Despite this, however, an increasing number of species now find themselves under threat due to human disregard, development, demolition and the building of new infrastructure, as well the erosion of the very legislation established to conserve them. Safeguarded from developers, seldom disturbed and boasting no end of suitable roost sites, churches offer rare refuge for myriad bat species; although the relationship between the cloth and Britain’s bats can often find itself fraught. With bats causing often irreparable damage to historically and culturally significant church monuments.
The £3.8 million granted by HLF will go towards a new, five-year partnership designed to give a boost to bats but also conserve churches. The new Bats and Churches Partnership offer the following description of the new initiative:
This unique project seeks to safeguard the future of protected bat roosts living in hundreds of England’s parish churches whilst reducing their negative impact on these historic buildings and the people who use them.The Bats in Churches Project will investigate and put in place practical solutions to the problems caused by bats in historic churches while safeguarding the future of the bat that use these buildings.The five year project will work with some of the most severely affected churches to support them to serve their communities without restriction. The project will help them to protect their historic spaces without harming bat habitats. The partnership will recruit hundreds of volunteers to help care for their historic churches and the bats who live in them, while thousands more will be able to get involved in exciting citizen science studies, education programmes and community-led bat and church events.
Churches offer bats a safe space to roost, pup and hibernate absent threat. In this sense, this new project is definitely one to be celebrated, especially given the growing realisation of the threats faced by Britain’s bats: a collapsing insect population springing to mind instantly here. While I would have liked to see NE footing the bill for this one, it definitely stands as some rare, upbeat news.