Kevin Bowden, of Wellington roofing firm Courtney Bowden and Son, really has got bats in his belfry, He found six adult bats when he stripped away the slates behind the belfry of the 125 year old Clayhidon Parish Hall, a former village schoolroom.
To comply with bat protection law, work had to stop immediately while Natural England was informed and ecologists from Blackdown Environmental were called in to conduct a survey of a small colony of long-eared bats
Ecologists Katie Jones and Bethan Withey found evidence of a small breeding colony, which means work cannot continue until Natural England grant a licence and not before the end of the breeding season. This could mean a hold-up of nearly three months in the work
“We knew there were swifts nesting in the roof, and we were already taking care not to disturb them, but we didn’t realise there were bats as well,” said hall chairman Gareth Weekes.
“Complying with the law is proving very expensive, adding at least £1,500 to our bill. But bats are declining nationally and we are happy to be doing our bit to help.”
Fixing the roof is part of a £100,000 programme to improve and extend the hall. The roof is being funded by a £25,800 grant by Viridor Credits. Clayhidon Parish Council created a new car park. Another £12,000 has been raised through donations and fundraising events, such as a midsummer party and barn dance, which raised over £2,000. The next event is a Brunch on September 8.