New 2CEC goes into bat

When David was advising London Underground on environmental issues, there were queries from the public about every three months concerning either pigeons or rats. For the Second Church Estates Commissioner, one of the issues appearing with a similar regularity appears to be that of bats in churches. Sir Tony addressed the question in January this year, in the following exchange, 29 Jan 2015 : Vol 591(102) Col 1002:

“Bats

Mr Andrew Robathan (South Leicestershire) (Con): What steps have been taken in co-ordination with Natural England to exclude bats from churches where they are causing significant damage to the fabric of church buildings. [907280]

Sir Tony Baldry: We are working hard with Natural England to seek to ensure an appropriate licensing regime and to develop equipment that can cost-effectively deter bats from roosting in churches where they may cause damage.

Mr Robathan: I know that my right hon. Friend is very concerned about this as well. Those of us who like bats also know they should not be desecrating our extremely valuable architectural heritage, as they are doing, as he knows, in a church on the edge of my constituency, St Nicholas’s in Stanford on Avon.

Sir Tony Baldry: I think the sensible thing to do is for me to ask the chair of Natural England if he will come with me to visit St Nicholas’s in Stanford on Avon, because it is obviously a church with many difficulties. When I stand down from this House in March, at the request and invitation of the archbishops I am going to take on the role of chair of the Church Buildings Council, and I hope that then I can add my substantial weight to trying to ensure that the problem of bats at St Nicholas’s in Stanford on Avon is resolved.”

The basis of Andrew Robathan’s gravamen on the issue is evident from his earlier question on the Habitats Directive (Bats and Newts), [29 Jan 2015 : Vol 591(102) Col 989]. On 28 May 2015, the first day that Parliament met this session, Bill Wiggin, (Con. North Herefordshire) laid the following written question:

“Churches: Bats: Written question – 407

To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what discussions the Church Commissioners have had with the Department for Communities and Local Government on changes to planning regulations that could increase the supply of places suitable for bat roosts and reduce the incidence of bats roosting in churches”,

to which Mrs Caroline Spelman responded on 2 June,

“[f]ollowing the General Election the Church Commissioners plan to seek an early meeting with the Department for Communities and Local Government regarding changing the regulations on bat roosts. In recent years the Church of England has seen increased numbers of bats using church buildings as roosts. This increased usage of our church buildings by bats for roosting is causing considerable strain on the parish communities and volunteers who maintain the parish churches alongside the great expense in cleaning and restoration of items of great religious, cultural and historic significance. In extreme cases the presence of bats is preventing the building being used for worship or by its wider community.

The Church of England is working alongside Natural England on a substantial Heritage Lottery Fund bid which will seek to provide physical and long lasting solutions for the worst affected churches and create a wider support network for those with smaller or transient bat populations. Both St Margaret of Antioch, Wellington and St Mary’s Church, Pembridge in my Hon Friend’s constituency have faced significant problems with bat populations. Both churches are part of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid and have already installed mitigation measures. We hope the bid for support will be successful and that this might then be able to bring some relief to churches across the country.”

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "New 2CEC goes into bat" in Law & Religion UK, 6 June 2015, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2015/06/06/new-2cec-goes-into-bat/

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