Bats hold up conversion work

A £350,000 project to convert 16th Century stables into a function room in Suffolk has been thrown into disarray after bats were discovered in the roof of the outbuildings.

A £350,000 project to convert 16th Century stables into a function room in Suffolk has been thrown into disarray after bats were discovered in the roof of the outbuildings.

Roy Hunt, landlord of the Crown Hotel, in Framlingham, found 40 long-eared bats in the apex of the buildings.

As all 45 species of bats identified in Europe are protected under law, Mr Hunt cannot have them removed but will have to work around them. He thinks it will cost around £25,000.

He said: “My first reaction was 'oh no, this is going to be a complete inconvenience' but when you think about it, it's important to preserve the history of the building where we can and the bats if we have to.”

The work can only be carried out in the area in two brief periods, in March and May, so this has delayed the opening of the venue until June.

While working in the roof, the bats will be led towards a temporary habitat with floodlights until the work is complete and then they will be led back with floodlights again.

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Mr Hunt said: “A concern for us will be that people will be eating in the restaurant knowing that there are bats in close proximity but we've been assured by DEFRA that it's a good thing because they actually eat off the bugs.”

He said they had planned to open the ceiling right up so diners and drinkers at the new function room, bar and restaurant would be able to see the apex but now the bats have been discovered they will put in a dropped ceiling so the bats can still live there.

An inspector from DEFRA will supervise the work when it is carried out.

A DEFRA spokesperson said: “All species of bats are protected under law and people can apply for a licence which will be issued by Natural England with respect to development.”

Bats are protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats, which came into force in 1994, under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals .

n Are also known as Plecotus Auritus

n Their brown ears are three quarters the length of their bodies.

n Their wings are folded backwards when rested.

n The oldest recorded long-eared bat is 30 years old.

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