Churches have provided a safe haven for bats for centuries.
According to estimates over 6,000 parish churches in England may be used by bats.
Most congregations live harmoniously with their roosts but sometimes bats and humans come into conflict. Historic churches offer vital roosting locations but without management, large roosts can cause irreparable damage to historic monuments and place a huge burden on the people who care for them. Some churches have even been forced to close their doors for good.
A partnership of Natural England, the Church of England (Cathedral and Church Buildings Division), Historic England, the Bat Conservation Trust and the Churches Conservation Trust has come together to form the Bats in Churches Project.
An Allchurches Trust grant of £30,000 funded pilots in three churches initially, testing different solutions to managing the impact of bats living in churches without harming them. Now a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid means that a further £3.8 million has been secured to enable the programme to be rolled out nationwide to 102 of the most affected churches.
The five-year partnership project will bring together wildlife, heritage conservation and church organisations, equipping hundreds of volunteers to care for their historic churches and the bats who live in them. It will also train professional ecologists and historic building specialists in new techniques and knowledge to improve their advice to congregations and collect and collate up-to-date data from over 700 churches across England, helping to build a specialist knowledge base about bats and their use of churches.