• sarahlyne

Bats in the Belfry

Updated: Feb 9

St.Matthew's Church Spire and Roof Restoration.

aLyne Ecology Ltd have been involved in the restoration project at St. Matthew's Church in Surbiton from the initial stages until the completion. The church is made of limestone and years of erosion has meant the spire and the clay roof tiles need restoration work.

St. Matthew's Church is a Grade II listed building and was originally associated with a vicarage and a hay meadow; both were built in 1875 taking less than two years to complete. Now the church is a focal point in Surbiton, regularly performing mass and a venue for hosting events such as baptisms and weddings.

St. Matthew's Church

aLyne Ecology Ltd conducted a Preliminary Bat Survey (PBS) to assess the possibility of bats roosting in St. Matthew's Church. Sarah Lyne and Martin Roche made their way up the original steep spiral staircase until they reached the belfry and continued climbing the steep staircase until they got to the base of the church spire. They discovered bat droppings and feeding remains, confirming that bats are using St. Matthew's Church to roost. DNA analysis of the droppings confirmed they belonged to Brown Long-Eared Bats; a species that is often discovered roosting in churches.

Base of St. Matthew's Church spire

Dusk Emergence and Dawn Re-Entry Surveys were recommended for St. Matthew's Church to understand how the bats are using the church and to inform a licence application, so that the restoration works to St. Matthew's Church can continue lawfully without disturbing or harming the bats that are roosting there.

Three surveys were conducted on St. Matthew's Church in May and June, no bats were recorded entering or emerging St. Matthew's Church but plenty of bats were observed foraging around the church.

View from the Belfry

Given St. Matthew's Church is a confirmed roost for Brown Long-Eared Bats, a Bat Low Impact Class Licence (BLICL) was recommended. This would enable the restoration work to proceed lawfully. The BLICL involved giving the contractors a toolbox talk, explaining to the them how bats are using St. Matthew's Church, the legal protection surrounding bats and what to do if they find a bat. A condition of the licence was that the contractors needed to complete the restoration works by hand, without the use of machinery, to reduce the adverse noise and vibration effects on any bats potentially present in the church.

Restoration Works on the Spire

"Sarah and her colleagues have worked very efficiently and helpfully on our project, from the initial investigations through to the issue of the BLICL and the Toolbox Talk. Although the evidence of a bat in our tower has involved us in considerable extra expense, Sarah has guided us through the compliance process well and made it as painless as it can be! I would certainly recommend aLyne Ecology Ltd to other churches seeking guidance on these matters" - Simon Hancock, Director of Music at St. Matthew's Church in Surbiton.

We have really enjoyed working with Simon and thank him for his cooperation throughout the process. We have really enjoyed working on the restoration project at St. Matthew's Church and we are delighted that the restoration of the spire and roof can proceed knowing that the work will not have any adverse effects on the bats.

If you are in need of bat surveys or you need some advice, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone: 01372 602372 / 07443652988 or by email: sarahlyne@alyneecology.co.uk.

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