Bats and Churches Partnership 
Latest Developments 

October 2018: Flying success for bats in churches project 

A ground-breaking project to help churches that host large bat roosts has recently been granted £3.8 million of funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund. (HLF) 
 
This new round of funding will help deliver a five year partnership project, bringing together wildlife, heritage conservation and church organisations to save bats and protect churches so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from both. 
 
The UK’s bat population has suffered some significant historical declines which is why they are protected by UK law. The loss of their natural habitats means that some species have been forced to find safe havens in buildings including historic churches. Many church communities live harmoniously with their bat roosts but in some cases bats are causing irreparable damage to historically significant church monuments and memorials as well as impacting upon the people who use the buildings. Without appropriate management, large bat populations can damage artefacts, placing a huge burden on the volunteers who fund, clean and care for these buildings. Church volunteers find themselves having to cancel events, covering and uncovering monuments and cleaning on a daily basis. 
 
This project will bring together church communities with bat and heritage organisations to provide support and find shared sustainable solutions. Recently approved techniques and a new licence developed by Natural England to permit necessary work will be trialled to improve both the natural and historic environment and the people who care for both. 
 
The bats in churches project will: 
 
• Find practical solutions to enable 102 of the most severely impacted church communities to reduce the impact of bats on the church, without harming the bats 
• Create a new network of fully trained volunteers who can undertake bat surveys and support congregations who have bat roosts at their church 
• Train professional ecologists and historic building specialists in new techniques and knowledge to improve their advice to congregations 
• Collect and collate up-to-date data from over 700 churches across England, helping to build a specialist knowledge base bats and their use of churches 
• Strengthen local communities so people value and engage with their local natural and historic built heritage 
 
Natural England is working in partnership with The Church of England, Historic England, Bat Conservation Trust and Churches Conservation Trust to deliver this ambitious and innovative project. 
 
Natural England chairman, Andrew Sells, said: 
 
“England’s bat population has suffered historic decline which has forced many to find refuge in some of the nation’s historic churches. 
 
“The funding announced today will give great impetus to the partnership of heritage, wildlife and church organisations which aims to resolve conflicts. Together these groups are demonstrating astonishing passion and drive in working together to save these wonderful animals and protect cherished churches across the country.” 
 
Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: 
 
“Places of worship and nature are both priorities for us, but they don’t always coexist harmoniously. Finding ways to solve this problem is beneficial to bats, churches and their congregations and is a really good use of National Lottery players’ money.” 
 
Kit Stoner, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust, said: 
“We are absolutely delighted with the news that HLF will continue to fund the Bats in Churches project. This means we can build on the collaborative and innovative approach we have taken so far in finding sustainable ways to support churches with large bat roosts in a way that will benefit bats and people. 
 
“Church and conservation communities can continue to work together to protect historic medieval church buildings, artefacts and bats. 
 
“Protecting our natural and historical heritage will create a lasting legacy that will benefit present and future generations.” 
 
Peter Aiers, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, said: 
“I love churches, iconic buildings of England and I love bats, however, humans and bats are not always happy pew fellows! 
 
“Many of the CCT’s historic churches have co-existed in harmony with bats for a long time. We want that to continue, but we also rely on volunteer support to keep our churches open and used by the community. 
 
“Increasingly volunteers find it a struggle to look after a church with large numbers of bats. This project is critical to our understanding of how we can support them and better look after our heritage, and we are delighted that the HLF has decided to back this creative partnership project.” 
 
Rt. Hon. Sir Tony Baldry, Chair of the Church Buildings Council, said: 
“Bats are part of God’s creation and this project will enable churches to maintain their primary role as Places of Worship whilst ensuring the sustainability of both our historic and natural heritage.” 
 
Dame Caroline Spelman, Second Church Estates Commissioner, said: 
‘This ground-breaking partnership project means that at long last churches will be empowered to tackle the issues that have caused tension between churches, communities and bats leading to benefits for all involved’ 
 
Deborah Lamb, Deputy Chief Executive at Historic England, said: 
“Volunteers caring for historic places of worship face a great challenge. When they also have to share the building with bats the situation can be overwhelming. 
 
“I am delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to support the Bats in Churches partnership so we can apply the outcome of a decade of research to places that need help. This should make life easier for everyone who uses or loves historic churches that host bats.” 

About the Bats in Churches partnership 

Natural England, Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England, Historic England, Bat Conservation Trust and Churches Conservation Trust have come together to form a ground-breaking partnership that brings together communities, bats and historic churches. 
 
Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and AllChurches Trust, the development phase of the Bats in Churches Project runs until June 2018, working with three pilot churches to test different approaches to manage the impact of bats in churches. This phase has included a pilot of the ‘citizen science’ study and development work with twenty churches. 
 
Subject to securing further funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and from other supporters, the delivery phase of the project is expected to run for five years from 2018-2023. 
 
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. 

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. 

Bats in Churches Project News March 2018 

The pilot phase of the Bats in Churches Project is coming to an end. Our application for a grant of £3.8 million to allow the five year project to go ahead will be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in June 2018. 
 
The project team would like to thank the hundreds of people who have taken part in the development phase of the project. Our trial has shown that there is great potential to transform support for church communities with bats, creating effective bat management solutions and getting new audiences involved in caring for their church and natural heritage. 
 
We are very grateful to the three Bats in Churches pilot church communities - All Saints Braunston-in-Rutland, All Saints Swanton Morley and Holy Trinity Tattershall - for agreeing to trial solutions during the development phase of the project. 
 
Thank you also to all 100 participating project churches for volunteering to take part in this project and for hosting ecologist visits to help us understand more about church issues with bats. 
 
We will announce the results of our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund in Autumn 2018. 
Child and bat misericord at Dundblane (photo by Anne Youngman)
Next steps: 
 
If you would like to receive all future news and updates emails, please contact us on bats.churches@naturalengland.org.uk 
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