Bats and Churches Partnership 
Latest Developments 

Bats in Churches Partnership project - February 2017 

We are very pleased to announce that the Heritage Lottery Fund has approved the development stage and initial funding for the Bats in Churches Partnership project. 
 
This is such a fantastic outcome for people and communities, church buildings and bats and we are looking forward to getting the project underway. The entire project will run in two phases: a 13 month development phase completing in March 2018 followed by a five-year delivery phase running until 2023.  
 
This result means we can now start work on the development phase of the project. Eventually there will be a dedicated project website but in the meantime, we will keep this website updated with the latest information. 
 
Summary of the Bats in churches HLF project 
Historic churches and bat populations of high conservation significance will be better conserved and communities strengthened, now and into the future. We will promote better understanding of built and natural heritage and a more harmonious relationship between people and bats. 
We have applied for £3.8 million of funding from HLF which, together with additional match funding and in-kind contributions from the partners, will be used to help mitigate the impact of bats on historic church buildings, whilst ensuring the future of the bat colonies involved. 
The main partners in this project are: Natural England, Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England, Historic England, Bat Conservation Trust and Churches Conservation Trust. 
 
The project aims to help: 
 
Built and cultural heritage: Churches are often wonderful buildings with very sensitive interiors including fixtures, artwork and monuments that, in some situations, can suffer irreparable damage from bat urine and droppings. This project seeks to protect the historic fabric and heritage value of the buildings. 
 
People and Communities: Where large and unmanageable colonies of bats are present, congregations can find it difficult to clean churches sufficiently for them to remain in active use. Trying to do so can be demoralising and a strain on resources. Congregations may be put off from attending and in exceptional cases worship and other community activities are not possible. This project seeks to strengthen and support communities looking after churches and bats. 
 
Bats: The large breeding bat colonies found in some churches can be of international importance and recent studies have shown that many such populations are highly dependent on the churches in which they roost. Loss of woodland and the conversion of barns and other traditional buildings used by bats may have added to the pressure on churches as the only available roosting sites. This project seeks to safeguard the future of bat colonies in churches whilst reducing their impact. 
 
What will the project do? 
 
1. Develop and put in place solutions to help churches with bats 
Research has shown us new ways to tackle the problems in the some of the most severely affected churches. These new methods will be implemented where appropriate and others tested and optimised. Knowledge and best practice generated from this work will then be used to offer solutions in many more churches with bats in the future. 
 
A top priority is to ensure the learning and best practice from the first group of churches involved in the project is widely shared with other churches that have lower levels of impact from bat colonies but still have problems. We will set up a network of highly-trained specialist volunteers who will be able to share this new technical knowledge and offer practical help through a series of local co-operative groups to maximise the impact of the project and ensure that there is on-going local mutual support. 
 
2. Build expert capacity 
Currently, there are very few professionals or volunteers with the skills to undertake this work. The project will identify specific people who will be trained, so they have specialist understanding of the sensitivity of historic fabric and community use of churches as well as the management of bats in churches, to build expert capacity nationally. 
 
A national network of bat conservation volunteers will be established at the start of the project to provide technical advice and guidance to church communities. This will include practical support with the implementation of bat conservation measures and wider community outreach work. The volunteer network will also have support from and access to a range of technical specialist expertise. This will make it easier for the volunteers who care for churches to get high quality advice in a timely manner when they need help. 
 
3. Collect data 
For the first time an ongoing national ‘Bats in Churches’ survey will be established, with data being collected by volunteers. We will find out just how bats use churches in England and create a database to share information with partners (including via Church Heritage Record and other key datasets). Data from this survey and the wider project will provide crucial evidence to inform the project’s ongoing legacy work, identifying where support for churches with bats is most needed. 
 
4. Engage people and communities 
Communities who care for and value churches and bats are a vital part of the solution. Project Engagement Officers will work to bring them together and create local champions, with a shared understanding of the challenges and ownership of the solutions. 
 
5. Provide better on-line advice 
Improved guidance will become available online via a dedicated website, enabling a streamlined approach to repairs or building works. This online service will continue to be enhanced and supported beyond the life of the project. 
 
6. Share knowledge with other historic building owners 
The techniques used in this project will have wider uses for other organisations and other historic buildings, such as The National Trust. We will work with these heritage groups from the outset. 
 

Bats in Churches – National Stakeholder Workshop, Coventry – 13th May 2016 

In May 2016, Natural England, Historic England, the Church of England, the Bat Conservation Trust and the Churches Conservation Trust hosted a major consultation event to seek views from those inolved with bats and churches issues.  
 
The national workshop shared new developments in our understanding of the management of bats in churches, the tools being developed to address the issue and presented information about the Bats in Churches application for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund.  
Child and bat misericord at Dundblane (photo by Anne Youngman)

Bats in Churches Class Licence 

The problems presented by large bat populations roosting and breeding in churches are unique. On one hand, churches are precious places of historic, cultural and religious importance that are treasured by the communities and that use and enjoy them. On the other, bats are rare and fascinating flying mammals that enjoy strong legal protection due to massive historic population declines. Protecting these bat populations while ensuring their impacts upon churches is minimised is a particular challenge. 
 
This is why a dedicated Bats in Churches Class licence is currently being developed. This new licence is being designed for use in churches where large bat populations are causing unacceptably high levels of damage to church fabric and monuments and disruption to congregations. It will enable highly skilled professional ecologists to work with those who care for churches to plan and then implement work to reduce the impacts being caused while facilitating the best outcomes for bats and for the buildings in which they live. 
 
Further information about this licence including; when it will be finished, who will be eligible to use it and how it will be rolled out, will be shared with stakeholders in the coming months. 
Next steps: 
 
If you have not already received an email update from the bats.churches@naturalengland.org.uk email address and would like to be included on all future emails news and updates emails, please contact us on bats.churches@naturalengland.org.uk 
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